4 March 2021
Unequal gender roles within the family are also a common problem – childcare, household maintenance, and supporting the partner and their goals are all considered to be the woman’s role, making it difficult for women to participate in other responsibilities. As a result of this, access to healthcare is a challenge for women and children.
Women living in rural areas have high morbidity and mortality rates due to a lack of access to healthcare. Pregnant women are particularly affected as many have to travel far to receive maternity care and, in some cases, are forced to choose between using their money for healthcare or using it to feed their children. Some may therefore choose to have a home birth delivery, which may lead to many obstetric complications and ultimately exacerbate their financial status and social burden. Women with a low socioeconomic status tend to experience issues such as stress, anxiety and postpartum depression. They are also less likely to be screened for breast and cervical cancer.
Women’s health is not an isolated problem, it affects even the next generation of the country. Let’s say we have poor services regarding HIV PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission). This will result in an increased number of children born with the virus which, in turn, creates a health burden for the country. A woman with no health education may not immunise her children or give them adequate nutrition. Women’s health goes beyond the rights of one individual.
Health leadership involves advocating for health regulations and resources, therefore women in leadership positions can champion and influence decision-making. Political commitment is critical in advancing gender equality. Vulnerable populations should not be represented by non-vulnerable populations. Who better to fight for women’s health rights than women?
Health equity can be best expedited through the participation of women in health leadership. Their leadership can enable the implementation of policies, strategies, and projects that effectively address women’s health. Women in current positions of leadership should know that they are influencing one of the critical aspects of a society’s wellbeing.
Gender equality in health can be championed in a number of ways:
Healthcare is one of the important areas where gender equality and equity can and should be achieved. Women, as a backbone of society, have the right to unbiased healthcare. When you advocate for women’s health, it has a huge effect on the fate of the next generation and the economic development of the country.
Dr Meti, Non-Communicable Disease Focal Person, Woreda 6 Health Center, Ethiopia.