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Championing Health Equity Through Women’s Leadership in Ethiopia

4 March 2021


As a country, Ethiopia generally has low health service utilization, high maternal death, and gender-based violence. A lot of Ethiopian women and children are still economically dependent on men, so their health becomes a secondary issue.

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:

  • Providing women with education on health promotion and disease prevention to encourage favourable behavioural changes that positively influence health outcomes
  • Motivating young women in their line of work and supporting them to reach higher positions
  • Designing health financing policies to improve service coverage and create financial security
  • Decentralising healthcare by allowing female health extension workers to engage with the community
  • Improving the quality of care given to women, as well as respecting privacy and confidentiality
  • Creating awareness among society about the importance of women’s health
  • Creating opportunities for regular leadership training for women

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.

This post was written by:

Dr Meti - Non-Communicable Disease Focal Person, Woreda 6 Health Center, Ethiopia


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