Packing for travel has always been a challenge for me. What if you stay longer than intended? Or an occasion arises and you don’t have the right outfit to wear? How many shoes do you need for a one-week vacation? Often I end up packing more than I need but forget necessities. But one thing I pack plenty of is tampons or pads, because even though I might not be in danger of starting my period during that time, you just never know. And during international trips, resources for health care can be uncertain.
But it wasn’t until I came across Gynopedia that I realized that, other than making sure I had full travel insurance, I hadn’t given much thought to availability of proper sexual and reproductive health care when I travel. I always assumed that I would be fine with my insurance. But reading through Gynopedia, I realized that there’s a lot I took for granted, like the availability of specific types of health care or medications that I might need while on the road.
Because women in different countries do not receive the same kind of sexual and reproductive health care, it’s important to know what options are available for you.
According to Gynopedia, it “is an open resource wiki for sexual, reproductive and women’s health care across the globe.” Its aim is to provide information on health care in different countries. Users can search for their destination city to see what types of care are available to them, anything from the menstrual products and morning-after pills to STI tests and abortion services. It’s a nifty tool which enables you to figure out what kind of health care you can expect in a city and what is legal and what are health-care norms in a country. Because women in different countries do not receive the same kind of sexual and reproductive health care, it’s important to know what options are available for you.
For example, bulky pads are easily found in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but tampons may be difficult to find, and in Cairo, Egypt, the morning-after pill is only available by prescription. I was curious to see information about Accra, Ghana, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, since I’ll be visiting those cities soon. Even if I don’t think I’ll need the information, it’s good to know that it’s available in one place.
Gynopedia was founded by Lani Fried. On the About page, Fried wrote that she realized as she was planning a multiple-country trip that she didn’t know how she would access birth control or other health services like STI tests and pap smears. This made her realize that there was a need for getting this kind of information from local people, who were better placed to know the best options available. Like most wikis, it is a simple and easy-to-use site, both for users and contributors.
Knowing which clinics are LGBTQ friendly, for example, can be an important safety measure to avoid being stigmatized or even harassed or arrested in some extreme cases.
Listings for more than 60 countries, many with information for multiple cities, are represented. Fried hopes that this project continues to grow worldwide—not just for women who travel but also for women who live locally in these places. To make it even easier to access and contribute, there is a Gynopedia Facebook page and a separate page for contributors, translators, and moderators. An important aspect is that it caters to people of all genders and the LGBTQ community, making it a useful resource even for those who are marginalized in most countries. Knowing which clinics are LGBTQ friendly, for example, can be an important safety measure to avoid being stigmatized or even harassed or arrested in some extreme cases.
Gynopedia continues the tradition of women turning to each other for help on the intimate topic of sexual and reproductive health. In a lot of places, governments do not provide this type of health care for women and women have learned to form communities to help each other access this care where it is available. This is especially crucial in countries like Kenya where services like abortion are legal only in limited situations and where finding safe options is crucial so that women don’t endanger their lives.
Gynopedia is timely and an important addition to the continued fight for women to access equal rights and resources in the arena of sexual and reproductive health, even while on the road. And now, as I contemplate what to pack, I can travel in the comfort of knowing that this resource is just a click away.