South Asia is home to one sixth of the world's population, making it both the most populace and the most densely populated geographical region in the world. The region faces public health challenges on a demographic and geographic scale unmatched in the world. South Asia’s low life expectancy, high rates of malnutrition, maternal mortality, infant mortality, and incidence of tuberculosis are second only to those of subSaharan Africa. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh are burdened by the mammoth population load. The fact that the countries of the South Asia region are home to two thirds of the world’s population, living on less than $1 a day makes the matters worse and solutions more difficult to find.
Genesis of SAFOG
The Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists took the initiative to convene a meeting in Colombo on the suggestion of Dr. Rohan Perera. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the region at the occasion of the annual conference of SLCOG. Dr. Rashid Latif was also invited for the meeting as president of Pakistan society. With SOGP short of funds, he went to Colombo, where he was the houseguest of Dr Harshalal Seneviratne and incidentally, it was their first meeting as well.
This meeting was held on the 7th of September 1995 at the residence of Dr. Lakshman Fernando, the then President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Dr. Shrish Sheth, Dr. Kamal Buckshee and Dr. D.K. Tank from India, Dr. Rashid Latif Khan from Pakistan, and Dr. W.S.E. Perera, Dr. Mahasara Gunaratne, Dr. H.R. Seneviratne and Dr. Lakshman Fernando, Dr. Rohan Perera & Dr. Rohana Haththotuwa from Sri Lanka participated in this important meeting. There was no representative of Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives or Bhutan at the meeting. At the meeting, Dr. Lakshman Fernando discussed the need for regional collaboration amongst the national societies. Dr. Rashid Latif and Dr D.K. Tank wholeheartedly supported the idea. It was decided to form a federation of the national societies of the SAARC countries. The idea was to establish a forum for the Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of this region to enable them to discuss their specific problems and progress, as well as to share and learn from the experience of other countries in the region. Moreover such as organization would be able to organize seminars, workshops and other educational activities in which both the experts and the aspiring young Gynaecologists would be brought together on the same platform. This would provide an opportunity to young researchers to present their work in front of a large regional group, as many of them may not have the resources to attend large international conferences.
As it was representative body of the SAARC countries, therefore it was decided to name it, as the “Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of SAARC Countries.” The participants of this small group from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka decided to take the idea home to the respective national Obstetrics and Gynecology societies and discuss in detail about the concept and development plan. A committee was also appointed to formulate the constitution. The members appointed to the committee were Dr.
Lakshman Fernando, Dr. Mahasara Gunaratne, Dr. Harsha Seneviratne and Dr.
Almost, a month later, the group met again on 16th October, 1995 at the XV Asia & Oceania Congress of Obstetrics & Gynecology, at Bali, Indonesia, where the format and launch plan of the new organization were finalized, as all the national societies had given the green signal. Here, in addition to members from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, members from Bangladesh and Nepal also participated. Dr. Ershad Ali, Dr. T.A. Chaudhry and Dr. A.B. Bhuiyan represented Bangladesh and Dr. Sanumaya Dali represented Nepal. At this meeting it was unanimously decided to have the Headquarters of the organization in Colombo and Dr. Rohana Haththotuwa was requested to look after the secretarial work. It was also decided to have the constitution ready by the first congress. In the meeting Dr. Rashid Latif Khan volunteered to organize the “First Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology of SAARC countries” in Lahore, Pakistan in November 1996. Under the patronage of Dr. Rashid Latif, a core team consisting of Dr. Farrukh Zaman, Dr. Sohail Lodhi, Dr. Rubina Sohail and Dr. Mohammad Tayyab was formulated, for managing this significant occasion.
The next meeting of the group was in Delhi on the occasion of another conference. Here, Dr. Rashid, invited delegates from the component countries and offered to fully sponsor travel arrangement, registration and hotel stay of ten invited speakers from each country. The offer was received with enthusiasm and was graciously accepted by the member countries. There was a lot of emphasis on the success of the first conference and it was decided to make it a mega event.
Initially the organization was named as “Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of SAARC Countries.” There were difficulties in registration of the organization, due to the use of the term “SAARC”. The budget of the conference was a major financial challenge because of the sponsorships offered to various countries, including delegates from the South Asian region, UK and Europe. Moreover there was extreme difficulty in providing sponsorship especially for a conference at the regional level. After hectic efforts by Dr.
Farrukh Zaman, Dr Rubina Sohail and their team, a firm commitment for the sponsorships was managed. As things got moving and started becoming tangible, the rest of the pharmaceutical industry came forward and provided support for exhibition, hall, dinner and entertainment etc.
The conference itself had more than hundred overseas delegates and around a thousand registered delegates. About one hundred and fifty scientific papers were presented during
the conference. The conference provided an opportunity for interaction and exchange of ideas. It was a platform for discussing the common problems and the unique solutions each country had to offer.
The social program was instrumental in bonding at a personal level. The hospitality and warmth received from outside the conference hall was memorable, both for the conference delegates and the citizens of Lahore. The enthusiasm, love and goodwill it generated were remarkable and the conference was a roaring success. For the first time ever, the specialists of the SAARC countries converted it into a tight knit unit and friendships developed. It resulted in a flow of invitations to and from each country to conferences and initiation of writing books with contributions from authors belonging to different South Asian countries. SAFOG had born with a bang!
First SAFOG Council Meeting
The first formal council meeting was held on 29th November 1996, at Hotel Pearl Continental during the conference. All the member countries were in attendance except Bhutan and Maldives. The office bearers elected during the conference were Professor Rashid Latif as President, Dr D.K. Tank as Vice President, Dr T.A. Chowdhury as President Elect, Dr Rohana Haththotuwa as Secretary General and Dr Harsha Seneviratne as treasurer. Two special posts of Secretary Research and Secretary Education were identified to promote research and academics in the region. The elected council members were Dr. Dr Shala Khatun, Dr Syeda Firoza Begum, Dr Syed Ershad Ali, Dr A. I. M. Anowar-ulAzim from Bangladesh, Dr Sohail Khurshid Lodhi, Dr Sadiqua Jafarey, Dr Mohammad Saeed, Dr Muhammad Tayyab, Dr Robina Idrees Siddiqui, Dr Shahnaz Naseer Baloch from Pakistan, Dr Sanumaya Dali from Nepal and Dr J.N. Rodrigo, Dr Mahsara Guneratne, Dr W. S. E. Perera, Dr Asoka Gunesekera from Sri Lanka.
• Members from Sri Lanka worked diligently to put forward an interim constitution, which was approved and a committee was formulated for preparing and proposing the final constitution. One of the important meetings for the development of the final constitution was held at the house of Dr J.N. Rodrigo, whose son being a lawyer helped in fine-tuning the constitution. The final constitution was presented, subsequently approved and adopted by the council after some amendments.
• It was decided that a SAFOG Congress would be held once every 2 years in association with the Obstetrics and Gynaecology society of the country hosting the congress. The conference would rotate amongst India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal every two years.
• There had been some difficulty in the registration of this newborn organization under the existing name. Therefore, the name was changed to SAFOG (South Asian Federation of Obstetrics & Gynecology) after approval of the other constituent members. The logo of SAFOG, designed initially by the local artists, was later modified by Prof. Alokendu Chatterjee and was approved by the Council at Dhaka.
• Sri Lanka College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SLCOG) graciously offered to provide space and maintain the headquarters of this emerging organization. This offer was accepted and thus, Colombo became the headquarters of this emerging association. It was also decided to open an account in Colombo, which was to be operated by the treasurer of SAFOG.
• To generate some finances, all countries societies agreed to make annual subscription to SAFOG.
Aims and Objectives