15th Jul 2019
Debbie Shaffer, CEO, Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales (FTWW) writes about the recent Menopause Summit:
It was with some trepidation we embarked upon creating the first-ever Menopause Summit for Wales, giving a platform for 51% of the Welsh population to have their voices heard.
Would a Summit be the right forum for women to share their experiences, and for employers and healthcare providers to commit to doing better?
Why a summit?
FTWW was hearing from many women, desperate for help, frustrated by the society-wide lack of appreciation of menopause and wanting to know how to get their concerns taken seriously.
We had begun the process of collating their views for a healthcare-specific report for Welsh Government, Making the case for Better Menopause Services in Wales’, emulating the successes of our reports on endometriosis, faecal incontinence and recurrent miscarriage.
As women’s health stakeholders with the Royal College of GPs and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, we had established a network of like-minded people who were passionate about the need to give women open expression of their feelings and experience of menopause.
Whilst reports and online support groups are fantastic, there’s nothing quite like meeting people face-to-face and, so, the idea for an inclusive Summit was born.
Aims of the event
Until recent years, menopause has remained taboo, or the punchline of many a ribald joke about (older) women’s mood-swings, flushed faces, and sweaty bedclothes. We wanted to break the silence, facilitate open and honest dialogue, and create a safe space for women to talk openly about the ageing process. It’s this embarrassment that has led women across the globe to remain stoically silent whilst going through one of the most tumultuous bodily changes in their lives.
What we did
We explored the impact of menopause on health, work, and relationships, and discussed how a societal lack of appreciation of the impact of symptoms can be a real barrier to productivity and well-being.
We pondered ways to involve our partners in our struggles and triumphs, methods of encouraging and incentivising employers to open up the dialogue about menopause, ensuring that women can continue to be as effective in the workplace as ever. We also spoke widely about how a lack of knowledge or understanding of symptoms and treatments can be a real obstacle to good health.
What did we learn?
● women want factual, unbiased information about what to expect from menopause
● HRT should be widely available
● we should all have the opportunity to discuss our individual needs with a healthcare professional with special interest in menopause
● we are equal participants in any decision-making process.
● women can be incredibly powerful if given the opportunity to talk, without shame, about menopause.
● women solve problems, offer ingenious solutions and support one another
● we can empower one another to challenge stereotypes, myths, misinformation and practices
Outcomes and successes
ITV Wales filmed the Summit and Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Minister for Equality, gave the opening speech. Demand for spaces was so high that we’ve been asked us to organise another in North Wales, funding permitting.
For FTWW, the Summit provided lots more really interesting evidence to include in our report to Welsh Government. We urge you to keep an eye on our website for its publication, along with details of future events.
We’d like to thank ShareImpact, WEN Wales, the event’s brilliant speakers and all of the fantastic participants who made the first ever All-Wales Menopause Summit an incredible success.
Let the conversations continue!