Trudie Gerrits is a medical anthropologist working at the University of Amsterdam and member of the Share-Net Netherlands Infertility Community of Practice who is passionately working to sensitise people to the topic of infertility.
Infertility is an often-neglected area in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). While every individual has a right to plan a family and access information and services that supports them in exercising their right, there are millions of people worldwide who are affected by infertility that often don’t see these rights realised. Rather, infertility is often shrouded with stigma and individuals may lack access to the support and care they need. In recent years, our Community of Practice (CoP) on Infertility has worked to break the silence on this topic both within the Share-Net network and in the wider SRHR field here in the Netherlands.
As an academic, Trudie has spent lots of time doing research around infertility, in African countries (Mozambique and Ghana) and the Netherlands. Yet, as Trudie puts it, “it’s nice to do research, but I also want to ask what the world can do with this’”. This question has motivated her in her work with her CoP. It is an important question as translating generated knowledge into policy and practice is a well-documented challenge in the field of SRHR. At Share-Net, our mission is to strengthen those linkages between research, policy and practice through sharing, generating, translating and promoting the use of knowledge. It is something we believe is integral for the development of better policies and practices in SRHR. The opportunity given for collaboration between individuals from practice, policy, and academic backgrounds in order to share insights is something Trudie described as being “the biggest asset of Share-Net”.
In the past, Trudie has been able to avail of the Share-Net International (SNI) Small Grants which funded projects she undertook in Ghana and Kenya, and Indonesia, respectively. The first project titled “Involuntary childlessness, ‘low cost’ IVF and fertility associations in Ghana and Kenya: Enhancing knowledge and awareness” sought to increase awareness amongst various stakeholders about infertility and childlessness in Kenya, Ghana and worldwide. It did this through generating new insights about experiences and needs of people with fertility problems and (possible) interventions in this context. The second Small Grant project was titled “Jembatan. a pilot project to support the integration of (in)fertility issues into SRHR programming in Indonesia”. By bringing stakeholders with shared interest in issues of (in)fertility together to engage in dialogue, share experiences and knowledge, and collaborate, this project aimed to ‘bridge’ the distance between these stakeholders who may not usually engage with each other. Additionally, in 2019, Trudie participated in the SNI Co-Creation Conference in 2019 which had a focus on Infertility. In all cases, she has been able to collaborate with people from different backgrounds to generate, translate and promote the use of knowledge generated around infertility. From policy briefs to the creation of the Infertility CoP itself, these collaborative activities have allowed Trudie the ability to “give additional value to hers and others’ research”, something that she “would not have been able to do” without the collaboration and support of the like-minded individuals in her CoP.
With more and more young people interested in the SRHR field, Trudie also recognises an important role she plays in introducing a younger generation to the ways knowledge can be generated and used – both in her academic work with infertility and the wider SRHR field. The importance given to collaboration and linking research with policy and practice at Share-Net is something Trudie sees as giving “a place for young scholars to meet”. Through Share-Net Netherland’s annual Linking Research, Policy and Practice meeting, Trudie happily introduces her students to this network. She views the network as a space where they will know it’s “not only about theory” but also practice.
As Trudie considers the past few years as a member of Share-Net Netherlands and the Infertility CoP, she reflects on a time where “infertility was not heard at all in Share-net circles”. She recognises that there is still a challenge to get other CoPs and Share-net members to consider infertility in their programming. As she puts, “infertility is interrelated with a number of other issues. When we talk about infertility, we also talk about GBV or unsafe abortions, all of which leads to preventable infertility. It also includes thinking about infertility in comprehensive sex education”. However, despite this challenge, Trudie expresses hope that her CoP will make people aware of this area of SRHR both in this network and beyond.
If you’re interested in the work our Community of Practice on Infertility does, you can read more about them here.