Introduction

Women have always played a vital role in human development, but a role that has largely been unsung and unrecognized. In very few cultures, until relatively recently, have women been acknowledged as having an equal role with men, and as having equal rights to participate in all social spheres. Numerous means, including selective interpretation of key religious texts, have been used to deny women those rights. This monograph seeks to explain how key Islamic texts have been subverted in this way, against the spirit of the true meaning. How does this link up with health? As the author shows, women’s involvement in health issues on a daily basis, not only supports the Islamic thesis that women have an equal role in society but shows that society is dependent on women as nurturers, carers and professional caretakers, both at home and in the workplace. It is a thesis that can be extended to all walks of life. For many in the industrialized world these issues are often now seen to be closed, and “equality” achieved. Whether this is true or not, for most women and men around the world, in poor urban areas, in rural and often hard-to-reach villages and towns, and even in comparatively affluent areas where access to education is not seen to be a problem, they continue to be live issues. They are issues that need to be brought out into the open and discussed openly so that all women, not just the privileged few, can have access to the choices and opportunities to which they have a right. This monologue is aimed at women and men in the Islamic community, but its message is universal.

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