International Gynae Awareness Day: Kath Mazzella

By OBOS — April 3, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Hayley Solich

Nominee: Kath Mazzella, member of Women Can International Inc.

vulva-day-mar-2008-060My experience of Kath is that she is a tireless sex/gyn awareness educator, who following radical gyn surgery to remove her cancer, has given the past 15 years to helping women to be better informed.

She founded GAIN (Gynaecological Awareness Information Network), which helps to raise the awareness of women and to provide them with quality information, as well as providing a solid campaigning platform for lobbying the government.

In Australia, Kath represents the community on heads of government councils and has been successful in lobbying the government for funding for gyn cancer research.  She is also the inspirational visionary behind the International Gynaecological Awareness Day on 10 Sept, which is starting to be celebrated in many countries.

In my personal contact with Kath, and I have helped her with her campaign, I have been so impressed and inspired by her dogged determination, despite horrendous difficulties, to get the message out to women so that they can have a better quality of life.

Kath is approaching retirement age and I would love to see the community recognize and honour her for all of the many hours of tireless campaigning she has done for very little fiscal reward.

Kath has only recently started her public speaking business, Speaking Openly, in an effort to take the message further into the corporate arena.  I would love to see her win this award to help her further her campaign.

59 responses to “International Gynae Awareness Day: Kath Mazzella”

  1. Kathy Mazzella is one of my heroes. At the young age of 39, she discovered she had vulvar cancer. After undergoing radical surgery that removed her vulva and her clitoris, she was devastated.. but did not let that stop her. She had to find out if there were other women who had gone through this, although her doctors told her it was exceedingly rare. She found that there were indeed many women who were affected by this rare cancer. She went on to found the GAIN organization and is actively pursuing the foundation of an International Gynecological Awareness Day.. September 10th of every year. Kathy’s cancer was discovered in 1994. She hasn’t stopped yet.

    Read more about Kathy’s ordeal at:

  2. Kath has inspired me to celebrate International Gynae Awareness Day in the UK and constantly amazes me with her drive to raise awareness. Kath has been through so much, yet never focuses on herself, all her energy goes on saving women’s lives and she is wonderful!
    Jeannette Preston Founder of PANTS
    Raising Awareness of Gynae and testicular cancers in the UK

  3. Kath Mazella is speaking out about a topic that no one else will – even Doctor’s do not talk to women about Vulvar Cancer. She is a Hero for ALL women worldwide.

  4. Kath Mazella is amazing. Her empathy and dedication are legendary among those she helps. And she helps many, many more women than even know her.

  5. Kath, Your commitment to your cause serves as an inspiration to all those who know you, men and women alike.

  6. Thank God for women like Kath who take on causes others don’t want to address. Women are built differently and we have unique health issues that don’t often get addressed, let alone funded for research for cures. You are a GUTZY WOMAN, Kath, and on behalf of GutZy Women across the world…THANK YOU for taking it seriously and fighting for such an important cause on behalf of half the population of the world!

  7. I have the honour of knowing Kath. Her passion, vision, courage, energy and commitment to improving the health and lives of women is truly inspirational.

  8. Kath Mazzella is an outstanding woman of great courage. She has taken a taboo subject -vulval/gynaecological cancer and worked tirelessly to make women aware of their personal health. In a society which has difficulty dealing with gynaecological issues in a medical sense-although as an advertising gimmick women’s sexuality is over addressed, she has pushed and worked to get these health issues addressed and funded. She developed a conference Viva la Vulva which had excellent speakers and publicity. She is an ideal candidate for Our Bodies Outselves to honour

  9. Like Kath, I have gone through the same life altering surgery losing all of my vulva and clitoris in 2003. Unfortunately, I recently had a recurrence and am about to go through it all again! Kath has been there encouraging me through all of this. She is brave and continues her fight even when people are against the topic.

    I tip my hat to you, Kath. You go girl!!!!

  10. Kath Mazzella shows us all that an individual can make a profound difference to the recognition of a human issue, on a local, national and international scale. Kath remains a humble and approachable person, not seeing herself for the giant that she has become in the public arena in relation to raising awareness about vulval and gynaechological cancers. Kath has applied her quiet determination, and her great style and flair, to growing this unique movement of women, and some men, to a now unstoppable degree. The public health dimension of Kath’s work is a fraction of her impact at an individual personal level for women all over the world, who have faced the deep stigma and isolation of vulva cancer in particular. The Health Consumers’ Council of WA in Australia is a witness to Kath’s activism and work and unreservedly acknowledges her achievements.

  11. Kath has been a wonderful inspiration and a source of very valuable information. It has been difficult to find useful and accurate information about gyn cancers that is presented in a manner that is easy to understand.

    Kath had been able to do all of the above.

    She’s an amazing individual who has made a difference for many other women. I’m sure that she’s touched more people than she realizes.

  12. Kath – Your creative strategies to get across sensitive information is applauded. your tireless efforts have REALLY made a difference.

  13. Kath is a true hero using her personal experience to inspire, inform and help others. Kath talks about topics that most of us don’t like talking about and this dialogue is essential in building women’s awareness and self-care for their health. Kath shared her personal journey at a LunchBox List event for businesswomen in Western Australia, and continues to show immense courage and the value of determination in all that she does. Go Kath – keep up your great work!

  14. Kath has turned a painful personal experience into something very positive for the good of all women. Her perserverance and courage to continue the battle for women’s gynaecological health should be admired as individuals like her are very rare in society and should be supported and very highly valued for what they do for the greater good of humankind. I wish Kath all the best in her journey.

  15. Kath Mazzella has worked tirelessly in Australia for the cause of women suffering from gynaological cancer. A victim herself she has carried on working to help others.

  16. Kath Mazella is an indefatigable promoter of women’s sexual health and women’s sexual rights. She recognises the power of words and how their misuse leads to detrimental attitudes and the dismissal of women’s sexuality by a wide range of specialist, medical practitioners. Viva the Vulva!!

  17. Kath you are an inspiration to all and your strength is beyond what most could imagine. I am honored to vote you and let everyone know what an amazing person you are.

    Much love always!


  18. I met Kath in 1997 when she was devastated, frustrated and angered by her personal experience with the medical system. I have seen her transform those feelings into a driving force to educate both medical professionals and women about women’s health issues. Her dedicated work has improved the lives of women across Australia and the world!

    Viva la Vulva!!

  19. Kath has dedicated 15 years to the cause to raise the awareness to Gyn health. Her efforts are have met great resistance in the early stages but this has not stopped her unwavering dedication to change the mindset of the public and professionals inthe education of all in GYN health matters.

    Viva La Vulva

  20. Kath was an inspiration to me whilst I was undergoing treatment for Cervical Cancer recently. From Kath being my client, she quickly became my friend, and understood and helped me along my journey. Thanks Kath, you deserve this award!

  21. Kath Mazella has been an amazing support and inspiration to me for the past 13 years. I also was diagnosed with Vulval Cancer at the age of 37and again age 42 .Kath was the first and only other i know of who had the same cancer. If not for her courageous effort to educate and bring out an awareness my journey would have been extremely lonely.

    She never stops beating the drum and speaking on behalf of us who have suffered in silence.I know first hand how difficult patients and health care providers find it to speak about intimate cancers which makes it even more difficult to have the necessay support for people like me and the families it effects.

    Thank you Kath for always stepping out and confronting the issues .Women need to support women and stand united to raise awareness and celebrate treasures like Kath. Go girl friend !! Viva La Vulva !!

  22. I am honored and proud to say Kath is my Aunty. She had dedicated so much of her life to her passion for us all as women and a fight for empowering us all to listen to our bodies but to also become aware of our bodies and to not be ashamed. With an amazing husband who stand by her she has done so much. May you read this and realized how many lives you have touched. Well done Kath!

    We love you heaps

    From all your family.

  23. I applaud Kath for all of her Hard Work and perserverance over the years. She is definetely an INSPIRATION to all women who suffer with gynecological problems. Thanks for standing up for ALL of us Kath……..May god bless you !!

  24. THANK YOU KATH. Not only for making visible this important health issue for us, but also thank you for the inspiration to not give up, to keep on saying THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH…to keep on saying THIS HAS TO CHANGE!! NO matter how long it takes, no mattet how big the obstacles.

  25. I would have to be tough to talk about losing parts of you that make you a woman. Kath has overcome any reservation and told the world. She is not looking for sympathy, nor any recognition; she just wants other women to check (and talk about) all the health points beyond the usual blood cholesterol and blood pressure that every GP will do. And if something amiss affects those womanly parts, you can remain a positive, healthy woman all the same. Big heart. Big story. Roknroll Kath. (BTW, I think mazzella is Italian for a small hammer. Keep on hammering away Kath).

  26. I have known Kath for some years and remain amazed at her courage, determination and just plain grit. She has done much to advance the cause of gynaecological health and common sense. She very much deserves recognition for her work.

  27. I would just like to thank Kath for being such a hard worker for the cause of all of us women and girls. Thank you Kath

  28. Kath’s passion and commitment to raising awareness for all women is aweinspiring. She is an inspirational speaker and one is left with admiration that from her own diagnosis and suffering she has raised an organisation which now shouts the message to all women everywhere.

  29. I met Kath through the National Speakers Association of Australia. I’ve heard her speak and I know something of her story since we are in a speaking group that meets regularly. Some people are extrovert and have ‘natural’ leadership personalities. Kath doesn’t. She does this work out of a desire to have women be better informed. So that her own experience is not repeated.

    She is leading because that is what is required. Her leadership style is not flamboyant, it’s not charismatic, it’s just persistent. She is unstoppable because through her experience she has seen a truth – that women are still uneducated on the subject and intimidated by it. And that significant improvements in awareness can be generated if health professionals and interested women work together. She knows that the path to better health outcomes is more openness. That’s why she does what she does. More power to her.


  31. Kath is amazing how she can normalise and desensitise such a difficult issue. She has put Gynaecology on the map for women.

    I appreciate the work Kath has done in her lobbying for gyn issues. As a result of her making gyn health more open I was able to detect my own vulval cancer early. And in doing so i believe that Kath helped to save me from major surgery and possibly my life. I therefore believe Kath fully deserves this award.

  32. I truly admire Kath as she is a wonderful inspiration for cancer survivors. Her actions, drive and heart speak louder than her words.

  33. Kath Mazzella is an amazing, brave woman who has endured a very long road to recovery following radical surgery for cancer of the vulva. She has battled long and hard to raise awareness of gynaecological health in the community and she deserves to be recognised for her efforts.

    Gynaecological Awareness Information Network, wishes Kath all the very best for her future and good health. Great things coming out of Western Australia indeed.

  34. I first met Kath when she formed GAIN and whilst not involved directly, I know women who have benefitted from the support given and I have kept abreast of her work since that time. Kath’s dedication and empathy is well known throughout the broader community, but particularly with those she helps. Her comittment to this cause serves as an inspiration to all those who know her.

    Her own experience has given her an amazing insight to the experiences of others and the support and care provided by her and GAIN is beyond what any woman can hope for.

  35. Kath- More people should celebrate your passion and dedication to such a worth while cause. Your efforts may go unrecognised to the majority, but to those who know you and those you have helped, our lives would not be the same without you.

    Good luck.

  36. Kath is an amazing woman who informs,educates and empowers women about sexual health. She tirelessly campaigns for increased awareness about gynaecological issues. She is truly inspirational.

  37. I have known Kath for many years and her enthusiasm and dedication to the cause is inspirational. She tirelessly dedicates numerous hours to helping others.

  38. I was introduced to the work of Kath through my wife and was amazed at her tenacity, bravery and positive attitude despite the hardships she has endured. She is an inspiration to both women and men and I believe she thoroughly deserves this award.

  39. I speak for myself and others who have survived and have not survived Vulvar cancer, we appreicate any and all who bring the issues of vulvar cancer out of the darkness and into the light!

  40. Kath is a tireless advocate of women’s health particularly when it comes to the highly “taboo” subjects of gynaecological and sexual health. She is thoroughly deserving of this award as I know first-hand how hard she has worked for others, and how profound her own personal battle has been.

  41. Having just met Kath at a one day training module, I can tell you she has a drive way beyond that of her stature. It was easy to recognise her honest passion to give aid and bring awareness to something I never previously been aware of.

    I have a mother, I have a wife, and I have a daughter, and would like to think that if ever any of them, or any other woman, is subject to a gynae problem, that it would be treated with the utmost dilligence, care and respect.

  42. Kath Mazzella is reaching out to women to raise awareness that Gynecological cancer is not limited to breast and womb. To keep pursuing this message takes great courage and tenacity. Keep on keeping on, Kath!

  43. Kath is amazing – she is dedicated to bringing into awareness topics we as women hide from ourselves and others. She is so brilliant at talking about such difficult subjects she has both men and women acting to improve the situation, in ways that only someone with true passion and skill can achieve. Wonderful work Kath. It is an honour to know you and support you.
    (Award-winning communication specialist and confidence coach for women.)

  44. It’s nice to know we (women) have a warrior fighting for us! I have a cousin who is dealing with this for the second time and knowing she has support and people helping fight is a comfort. May god bless us all!!

  45. I had major problems trying to vote, but Kath is a staunch advocate with much passion and will never give up. She is fantastic!!

  46. I had major problems trying to vote, but Kath is a staunch advocate with much passion and will never give up. She is fantastic!! Please listen to this woman, she is wise.

  47. Kath has been and continues to be an oustanding advocate for women’s gynaecological and sexual health in Australia. I have worked in this area since the mid 1970s, and I have the highest regard for Kath’s courage and determination to be heard, to raise the difficult topics at national conferences and to challlenge the thinking of many health professionals. She has inspired other women with cancer to come forward in their local communities, and has engaged many health professionals in discussions about the key issues for women with gynaecological cancers.

  48. I wish to thank Our Bodies Our Selves for this wonderful initiative – to bring those who have fought the fight for many years to give voice to women for issues “below the belt” something that is long long overdue. Too many women suffer without a voice in the global communty. Women need to be proud of who and what they are. Speaking openly about this suffering can only make the world a better place.

    Through the vision of International Gyn Awareness Day we can help educate, better acceptance would be in the world but also show how special and how magnificent women are.

    I applaud your years of dedication to women.!!

    Well done.

    Kath Mazzella

  49. Karen’s Additional comments

    “Ladies, I rarely circulate anything as a mass-email, but this is something that deserves our support. Kath Mazzella has almost single-handedly brought the topic of women’s gynaecological health and well-being out of the stirrups and into the light of day. A survivor of Vulva cancer and horrendous surgical mutilation, Kath found little support after the mental and physical trauma of the operation. For over 15 years she has campaigned for more information, more awareness of options, more follow-up care, and more compassion for those who suffer from gyn cancers. She founded GAIN, which has done a great deal to assist women cancer sufferers. My own mother went through misery with this nearly 40 years ago and I never really appreciated how difficult it was for her, both physically and mentally. When I told her about Kath’s work, she said she wished she’d had that sort of support when she was going through the surgery and afterwards. Please take a moment to read the following, watch Kath’s video, and give her your support.”. Regards, T

  50. if this can help I am all for it, women especially need to be aware of whats going on with their bodies no matter how old they are. i am sure you inspire other women that have gone thru this and going thru it themselves. Wish you all the luck in the world. all the very best

  51. A couple of weeks ago I hosted an event for GAIN. Gyn Awareness Information Network – “Vulva Awareness Day” for young women & their mothers about cervical cancer, HPV vaccine & importance of regular pap smears. The event was well organised & volunteers who work for GAIN did a fantastic job arranging world class specialists & speakers to inform 100’s of young women they were anticipating would turn up.

    Unfortunately only 20 women turned up, but we all pushed on realising how important it was to get the message out there & if these 20 women told 20 women surely we could make a difference. I saw how disappointed the women who work for GAIN were, they’d organised speakers who had survived cancer. I told them that I thought it was the use of the word “Vulva” that may have put people off. As silly as that sounds, when I was asked to host ‘Vulva Awareness Day’ I was a little taken a back.

    I left determined to do what I could to help them & so Pap Smear Express was born. I wasn’t sure how Sam Mac would react to the idea but to his credit he was right on board. Next was convincing my boss that it should be called the “Pap Smear Express”, for some reason the word “smear” seems to put quite a few people off. I stood strong on this one, we need to get over our petty issues with certain words and get on with preventing cervical cancer. The words VAGINA, VULVA & SMEAR may make some of you uncomfortable but I promise you cancer is a lot worse.

    Sam Mac & I were overwhelmed with the public’s response & was shocked at just how many of you had been avoiding getting a pap smear. Some had gone their whole lives & never had one.

    We heard many of your stories on air & we also heard from Amy Fidler a young cervical cancer survivor whose complacency almost cost her life. Amy had an irregular pap smear result, waited 9 months to follow it up, a tumour was found, finding fighting cancer aged 27. The bus left the station this morning & we had women from all walks of life on board, however there was a common bond. All had neglected their own well being for far too long, me included. Everyone seemed a little on edge, I was especially worried about a girl named Ricki who was quite emotional as she had, had an irregular result a little while ago & never got it checked out.

    When we arrived the ladies from Marie Stopes were out the front to greet us, they were absolutely fantastic. We all piled in & filled out the necessary forms & began the wait. One by one the girls went in & when the first one came back out with a huge grin on her face everyone relaxed a little. For some it was quite confronting, for others no where near as bad as they had anticipated. or me, I felt like I’d taken back a little control over my health. We will all get our results on Friday week & I will keep you all posted on how it goes. To all the women out there reading this now, be it a pap smear, a breast check or anything else that may be worrying you about your health, GO & GET IT CHECKED OUT. You are ALL important, valued individuals who deserve to feel human. To all the men out there who made it past the word VULVA in capital letters if you have a lady in your life you care about, remember to have the care to ask if she’s ok. Thanks very much to Adams Coachlines, GAIN & Marie Stopes for making this possible & to all of you for embracing the word smear. Em x

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