By: Emma Santini, NGO Youth Representative

On March 16, Caring and Living as Neighbours (CLAN) and IndigenousNCDs co-hosted a parallel event at the UN Women’s NGO Commission on the Status of Women 65th Forum titled “Putting Indigenous Women First in Tackling NCDs.” CLAN is an Australian-based NGO committed to equitable health outcomes for all children living with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and other chronic health conditions around the world. CLAN is proudly serving as the Secretariat for IndigenousNCDs.

IndigenousNCDs is an Indigenous-led movement seeking to promote the voices and experiences of Indigenous peoples within the global non-communicable diseases (NCDs) discourse. This event primarily placed a spotlight on Indigenous women as mothers and primary caregivers of children living with NCDs. Women are in a powerful position to be active partners in driving change, and panelists highlighted the invaluable contributions of women in maintaining the health of their children and communities. To address global health inequities, CLAN believes it is essential to empower women in the fight for children’s equal rights to health, particularly within resource-poor settings and disproportionately affected populations like Indigenous communities.

Keynote speaker Kaitlyn Hunsberger, a member of the Yavapai Nation in Arizona, USA and former intern of CLAN, discussed the matriarchal systems within Indigenous communities and highlighted the accomplishments of Native women who have spurred enormous shifts in the mobilization of healthcare, education, and politics. At a time of huge challenge during COVID-19, Kaitlyn conveyed the strength and resilience of women in her communities and their inspiring, creative, and innovative solutions to keep communities safe. She concluded her piece by emphasizing that there is a “new era ahead of us, one that involves Indigenous voices in places where they are making decisions about us, without us.” Both CLAN and IndigenousNCDs were proud to support the voices of First Nations women like Kaitlyn who are dedicated to advancing principles of equitable health within their communities and motivating others to do the same.

Two of CLAN’s Youth Representatives to the UN, Emma Santini and Kevin Smith (both students at Lehigh University), also shared an update on the work of CLAN to maximize the quality of life for children and their families who are living with chronic health conditions in resource-poor settings. CLAN’s work across the globe follows a rights-based, community development model, with a strategic framework for action encompassing 5 Pillars: affordable access to medication and medical equipment; education, research and advocacy; optimisation of medical management; encouragement of family support networks; and promoting financial independence. Kevin shared a project that CLAN started in December 2019 with the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) in Karachi, Pakistan, that assisted families of children living with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). A pilot project funded the delivery of essential medicines to the homes of 50 CAH community members identified as living in the most vulnerable circumstances. With near-universal compliance and follow-up achieved with all fifty children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a truly remarkable outcome for the families involved and spoke to the importance of promoting affordable access to essential medicines for those most in need. Read more about CLAN’s work in Pakistan and other nations across the world here.