Between managing different roles at home and at work, it’s a given that women often have to work hard to remain healthy at all times. Over the past couple of decades, health disparities faced by women have been on the rise, which is further exacerbated by the pandemic. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we at Augustman Malaysia felt that it is important to adopt a level of awareness of the health struggles that women are facing.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. PCOS patients are at an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, infertility, and various cancers. Although mainstream media attention on PCOS has been increasing in Malaysia, there is still more work to be done when it comes to exploring the various complexities of the syndrome.
As the Creative and Brand Director at My PCOS I Love You, Reza Ramli is committed to understanding PCOS, the effects it has on a woman’s health, as well as the barriers and stigmas that come with the disorder. In this interview, Reza talks about his passion in raising public awareness on PCOS while creating a safe space to help improve the lives of those affected by it.
What led you to be involved in advocating for women’s health?
What got me involved in advocating women’s health is because of my wife, Deena. She has been dealing with PCOS since she was a teenager. It started when she was 16. She started gaining weight, her period would get irregular, and she started growing facial hair. I remember her telling me that she used to get bullied a lot because people would shame her over the way she looked. With her hormones affected, she started gaining weight. As a teenager, she never had the chance to figure out how to manage PCOS.
Fast forward to today, women are suffering many of the same issues that Deena did back then. Basically, the women who are dealing with PCOS are going through a lot of mental health issues. When they visit a doctor, one of the few things that Doctors would say is that they should lose weight. From the women’s perspective, the issue is far beyond “just lose weight”, and that’s something we hear a lot for from our community of women that are suffering with PCOS. With My PCOS I Love You, we are here to advocate, educate, and create awareness about PCOS in Malaysia.
The body positive movement has been gaining traction over the past couple of years. What can we do to further the cause?
When Deena was speaking to all these women through social media, we learned body image is really something that a lot of women are struggling with. Whether it’s a work environment, or a gathering amongst relatives and friends, there is a level of fear that comes from anticipating the dreaded question – “Why are you not losing weight?”.
It’s important for us to encourage the women in our community to be healthy, but not in a way that’s discriminatory. For a lot of women with PCOS, a primary factor when it comes to their reluctance is the lack of gym facilities that cater to their needs. For us, we’d encourage the women in our community to be healthy through a list of activities that they can do. Whether it’s going for a walk, a light workout session, or even something as simple as doing the chores, are sometimes enough for them to remain active.
The media likes to portray women in a certain way. As a result, there’s a lot of unrealistic expectations that have made their way into our society, and I think it’s extremely important that we examine these expectations. How you look shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion, and that’s one that should be thrown out of the window.
When it comes to women’s health, what can we do to be more supportive?
With My PCOS I Love You, we believe in self-love and the strength that comes from it. For someone that’s suffering with PCOS, it’s already as hard as it is, so our goal is to be a one stop resource for connecting the women to different psychiatrists, doctors, or gynaecologists. It is also our task to equip these women in having the confidence in seeing a doctor and asking all the necessary questions.
As the only man in the organisation, I would like to inspire and encourage other men. Whether you’re someone’s boyfriend, husband, or son, it’s important to get yourself educated about the health of this person that you care for. In short, the more you know about women’s health issues, the more you can be a source of support for them. It’s highly important that as men, we are equipped to support women physically, emotionally, as well as mentally.