First Lady Begum Samina Alvi has called for creating awareness on health and socio-economic issues, particularly the high mortality rate due to breast cancer, the often-neglected issue of mental health and well-being, and the rights of persons with disabilities.She urged teachers, students, media, varsities, and health professionals to disseminate the message of awareness to the grassroots levels and play their role in creating an equitable and inclusive society.She expressed these views while speaking at an interactive dialogue on Breast Cancer, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and Mental Health issues, organized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) at Hamdard University.
The interactive dialogue was attended by experts in the fields of Oncology, Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences as well as the faculty members and students of Hamdard University.
Technical Advisor from WHO, Head of WHO- Sindh, Chancellor Hamdard University, Vice Chancellor Hamdard University, Leading Consultant Medical Oncologist, and Head of Department (HoD) of Psychiatry Dow University also attended the event.Addressing the occasion, the First Lady said that Pakistan had a high mortality rate in the South Asian region due to breast cancer, adding that numerous lives could be saved by diagnosing the disease at an early stage. She urged women to adopt the habit of 5-minute self-examination every month to detect breast cancer at early stages and to seek medical help if they notice any lump or unusual change in their bodies. She stated that she had been raising awareness about breast cancer since 2018 and due to the efforts of her team and support from the media, more women with breast cancer were being diagnosed in early stages. She said that breast cancer was curable, provided it was diagnosed early, and urged women to adopt a balanced and healthy lifestyle.Talking about mental health and well-being, Begum Samina Alvi said that the topic of mental health and stress was often neglected in Pakistan and there was a stigma attached to this important aspect of health.
She said that people in Pakistan neglect their mental health and do not seek professional advice, adding that there was also a shortage of mental health professionals in Pakistan. She informed that Overseas Pakistanis were willing to offer their professional help and expertise to improve mental health services in Pakistan, besides offering online training and counselling services. She said that people should not feel reluctant to seek professional help in case of stress, depression or other mental health issues.
Highlighting the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), Begum Samina Alvi called for bringing behavioural change in society towards them, providing them with education and skills, and including them in mainstream socio-economic activities.
She called upon the business community to give jobs to PWDs as per their skills and abilities, besides fulfilling the job quota in the government and private sector as per relevant laws of the country. She said that steps should be taken to remove the barriers towards the financial and social inclusion of PWDs to make them productive and equal members of society.Technical Advisor to the World Health Organisation, Ms Maryam Malik, briefed the participants about Begum Samina Alvi’s journey of advocacy for Breast Cancer Awareness, Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Mental Health, which was started five years ago.
During the interactive session, participants highlighted various problems being faced by PWDs and the need to create an inclusive society. The participants also appreciated the First Lady for creating awareness on a national level about important social and health issues.