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Celebrating International Women’s Day 2014

On Friday 7 March 2014, 150 people joined together at the RCOG to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The first International Women’s Day was marked in 1911 to promote equal rights and suffrage to women. It is very fitting, that just over a century on, the RCOG focused its celebrations on human rights awareness in women’s health.

Keynote speaker: Baroness Glenys Kinnock

We were honoured to be joined by our keynote speaker, Baroness Glenys Kinnock, a pioneer in women’s rights. Her rousing and emotive speech struck a chord with our attendees. All of those who heard her speech were moved by the terrible imbalance in equality still evident all over the world and agreed that as medical professionals, we have a duty to speak out where we can, for women and their rights.

Read Baroness Kinnock’s full speech.

RCOG President David Richmond and Baroness Kinnock at the RCOG's International Women's Day 2014 event

Baroness Kinnock with David Richmond, RCOG President

Medical ethics in human rights and women’s health

Mr Leigh explained the principles of medical ethics in human rights and women’s health. He highlighted that in order to improve human rights awareness in the health care of women, it is necessary to change the system in which health care is delivered, focusing not just on the medical issues but on a much wider setting behind the system of health care for women. Only then can real steps be taken to ensure all of a woman’s human rights are considered when she accesses health care.

Human rights checklist

Professor Lesley Regan, RCOG Vice President for Strategic Development and co-Chair of FIGO’s Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights (WSRR) Committee, introduced the group to the Human Rights Checklist developed by the WSRR Committee. This checklist gives clinicians and patients alike an easy-to-use tool to implement and build awareness of a human rights approach into everyday health care. To download the checklist and supporting documents on human rights in women’s health developed by the WSRR, visit the GLOWM website (Global Library of Women’s Health).

Professor Lesley Regan, RCOG Vice President (Strategic Development)

Professor Lesley Regan overseeing the workshop session

Case studies and discussion

In the afternoon, our delegates split into groups led by a trained facilitator and discussed two case studies created by the WSRR. Groups discussed which human rights had not been considered within each case: one in rural sub-Saharan Africa, and one in a modern city just like London, demonstrating that this is not just an issue faced by women in the developing world.

The end of this session saw an active all-group discussion take place with delegates sharing their views on why and how human rights should be incorporated.

Read a summary of the key points from this discussion.

Overview of the day

We're delighted that the workshops and speeches had such a profound effect upon attendees and the fact that so many wanted to put forward their views shows the huge impact this topic has upon those determined to make a difference and bring lasting change to women’s health care.

The College would like to warmly thank Baroness Kinnock and Mr Leigh for their wonderful contribution to this successful event.

Send us your stories

The WSRR, FIGO and the RCOG would like to further the work of the human rights workshop. With your help, we can teach the value of the human rights checklist to more people across the world.

We invite you to submit your stories to the bank of case studies used to train people in the human rights workshop. Can you think back to a scenario where you witnessed an infringement of one of the human rights on the checklist?

Perhaps you took active steps to ensure a woman’s human rights were not forgotten in a medical situation. Whatever your story, please share it with us.

To submit your story (no more than 300 words), please email

Please read the regulations before submitting your story.

Find out more

Visit our Storify page – read messages, look at photographs and find out who got involved on the day.

Have a look at all of our photos from the event.

Elsewhere on the site

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Read the RCOG’s strategy to help tackle maternal mortality and morbidity worldwide