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Happy International Women’s Day!
This year, more than ever, it feels like we need this day. In fact, sometimes, it seems that the world is not a great place for women and that rather than advancing and continuing in our quest for equality, we are actually going backwards.
When we have governments – usually led by men – still thinking that they have a say with what women do to and with our bodies, making decisions about, and placing restrictions on our reproductive options and confusing health reform with the limiting of choices, we know that we’re not even close to things being fair for women.
My world is very shaped by women. Exhibit A: just a few of the women and girls who I’m lucky enough to call friends, family and colleagues, many of whom I’ve met through my diabetes life.
But for me, International Women’s Day is about far more than my own world.
This year, the International Diabetes Federation has decided that the theme for November’s World Diabetes Day will be Women and Diabetes. In an effort to draw attention to the specific challenges faced by women with diabetes across the globe, the IDF will develop a range of materials to support women. There will be an entire stream at the IDF Congress in Abu Dhabi at the end of this year dedicated to women and children’s health.
Currently, there are almost 200 million women across the world living with diabetes and 40% of them are of reproductive age. That is a lot of pregnancies potentially impacted by diabetes. The need for safe, evidence-based, pre-pregnancy care for women with pre-existing diabetes is essential to improve outcomes for women and their babies. And this needs to start early. With half of cases of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy occurring in women under 30 years, girls and young women with diabetes need to have access to education and information about the importance of pregnancy planning.
Women’s health and diabetes has always been a special interest area of mine. My first big project when I started working in diabetes organisations was to help develop a diabetes and pregnancy booklet.
But pregnancy is not the only health issue for women with diabetes. There are a lot of other concerns and issues that need to be addressed, and I am looking forward to what the IDF do later in the year.
So today I’m celebrating – and saluting – women around the world – especially my own daughter who sent me a clip of the women teachers from her school performing ‘I am Woman’. And checking out some really important women’s health-related sites (some links below). Go get your green, purple and white on and celebrate the day!
Diabetes Sisters is a fabulous organisation based in the US and run by two of the women who appear in the collage above. It’s led by Anna Norton (CEO) and Sarah Mart (Director of Operations) who are exactly the kind of women you want on your team. I’m lucky to call them friends.
And, today is the perfect day to do the The Jean Hailes annual Women’s Health Survey and help shape women’s health in Australia.
Yesterday, on her first day of school, the kidlet’s English class was about autobiographies. So, we had a long chat about some biographies and autobiographies we’d read – and ones we wanted to read – and why they are a really important way for people to share the stories of their life.
Story telling is one of the most powerful ways to record events, emotions and life experiences. Others who may be going through similar experiences can feel great comfort knowing that others have not only lived through certain situations, but stuck around to tell the story! And it is also a fabulous way to share stories with those not familiar with different places, circumstances or surroundings.
Our stories have the ability to inspire, offer an opportunity to learn, and help make sense of things around us.
So, it took me no time at all to respond with a resounding ‘YES!!’ when I was contacted by Anna Sjöberg from Anna PS and Sofia Larsson-Stern from Diabetesia, asking me to be in their book about people living with type 1 diabetes.
The end result of their hard work is a fabulous book – ‘We can, want and dare …and we have type 1 diabetes!’ – and it features people from all over the world telling their stories of life with type 1 diabetes.
When putting together the book, Anna and Sofia wanted to provide real-life stories from people with type 1 diabetes from all walks of life: from kids and teens
(such as this one who is, quite simply, AMAZING!) to adults doing all sorts of amazing extraordinary, and every-day things. There is a Brooklyn-based chef, an incredible young advocate from Sweden and another Swede whose Instagram profile describes him as a Multisport Team Ninja Warrior! Oh, and a Melbourne blogger and activist.
The books was launched it its original Swedish-language version last year on World Diabetes Day and the English-language version has just been launched and is now available.
This book is not just for people with type 1 diabetes, although, with its stories of hope it certainly would be a wonderful thing to give someone newly diagnosed! It is also for friends and families of those living with type 1, and people who really have no significant connection to type 1 diabetes, because it provides an understanding of the complexities of the condition that we live with and offers a very personal insight into life with type 1.
GIVEAWAY GIVEAWAY GIVEAWAY
I have three copies of ‘We can, want and dare …and we have type 1 diabetes!’ to give away to Aussie-based readers of Diabetogenic, thanks to the team at Anna PS. Just click here and send me a message telling my why you would like a copy. Keep it short – brevity is key here!
I was invited to provide my profile for the book and received no payment for my contribution. I will receive a signed copy of the book for my bookshelf, though, and can’t wait to see it!
We watched the movie Looking for Alibrandi with the kidlet the other night. I remember when the book came out. I’d left school, was in first year at Uni, and still trying to work out who the hell I was. My mum, sister and I all read the book and couldn’t stop talking about it.
That book was one of the most important things I read when I was younger, because it resonated so much. The idea of not understanding where I belonged had shaped a lot of my adolescence, and was continuing to confuse me as a young adult. I know I wasn’t the only one feeling like that – many kids of post-war migrants felt the same way. Not that we really spoke about it, which was why Looking for Alibrandi was so important. It put into words the jumbled thoughts in my head.
My parents moved from Italy to Australia in the late 1940s (my dad) and early 1950s (my mum). They both grew up here – all their schooling was in Australian schools. They speak English perfectly without a hint of an Italian accent.
We didn’t speak Italian at home, and weren’t particularly involved in the Melbourne Italian Community. Most of my parents’ friends were not Italian, and I only had very, very few Italian friends. At secondary school, there were a number of Italian girls whose families would have been similar to mine, and yet they weren’t the girls I hung out with.
I wasn’t really sure where I fit. I didn’t belong with the Italian girls, because their parents were all a lot stricter than my kinda strict parents; they all spoke fluent Italian – often to each other – and were more involved in the Italian community. Equally, I didn’t really feel that I belonged with my ‘Aussie’ friends because they totally didn’t get the overprotective Italian father thing I had going on at home. Or my love of Fiats. (Or that we had Nutella in the cupboard at home!)
I was in this kind of middle ground that left me wondering where I belonged. And it is a position in which I find myself again today in the diabetes world.
I am a person with diabetes. But for the last 15 years (so, for all but 3 of my diabetes life) I have worked for a diabetes organisation. It leaves me in a unique position that brings great opportunities and privilege, but also makes me feel like a complete outsider at times.
HCPs are confused by me and sometimes suspicious of my vocal advocacy on engagement and the power of peer support; others with diabetes are sometimes wary because they wonder just how free I am to be open and honest about my diabetes; within diabetes organisations I am seen as someone who has fingers in many, many pies; global advocates are curious about how I manage to write this blog while still being in paid employment with a diabetes organisation. To avoid confusion (frequently my own), I speak differently depending on the audiences I stand before, and adapt my tone and language and stories slightly to suit HCPs, PWDs, industry reps or government people.
But essentially the stories are all the same and it is my voice telling the stories.
Next week, I’ll be in Munich at the European Association for the Science of Diabetes (EASD) Annual meeting. The EASD conference is an interesting one. It is very ‘rats and mice-y’ – the term I use for conferences where I look confused in most of the sessions because I have pretty much no idea what is being said, however understand enough to know that someone, somewhere has managed to cure diabetes. In mice.
Despite it’s very science-focused content which attracts very science-focused folk, I feel very ‘right’ at this particular conference, because there is a wonderful advocate, blogger and consumer satellite program that means the city is full of ‘my people’. And that is why I am there – for those events.
If I feel as though I don’t belong at EASD, it’s because I am the only Australian advocate there. I have travelled the furthest distance, I am jet lagged for most of the time and people have trouble understanding my accent. But the Italian contingent at the advocate events claim me as one of their own (albeit one of their own who doesn’t speak the language), so at least I feel that I fit somewhere.
So at least for next week, I’ll know my place. And it will be alongside some of the most dynamic, clever, passionate and dedicated people I know. My people. They will teach me a lot as I learn what they’ve all been up to since we last met and I’ll clumsily share what’s been going on here in Australia. That’s where you will find me.
(And you’ll also find me sitting down the back of science-y sessions looking confused. And wishing I was a mouse.)