Health authorities across the WHO South-East Asia Region must recognize and embrace their role in promoting gender equality
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the courage, strength and capacity of ‘ordinary’ women to drive extraordinary change. It is also an opportunity to recommit to our common goal: gender equality and the empowerment of women. Though achieving this outcome requires a whole-of-society approach, the health sector has a crucial role to play. Health authorities across the WHO South-East Asia Region must recognize and embrace it.
Healthy Women, Healthy Nation
Recent progress demonstrates the impact health sector initiatives can have on women’s well-being, a key dimension of their empowerment. Between 1990 and 2015, for example, the Region reduced maternal mortality by 69%. Between 2001 and 2015 contraceptive use increased from 46% to 60%. In the same period, the total fertility rate dropped from three to 2.4 children per woman. The human papillomavirus vaccine, so crucial to preventing cervical cancer, is meanwhile gaining traction as global calls to eliminate the disease grow.
Equality in Healthcare
As per the focus of this year’s International Women’s Day – ‘Think equal, build smart, and innovate for change’ – a good place to start ‘thinking equal’ is to improve adolescent health. In doing so, young women will not only be healthier; they will also be empowered to choose their own destiny. Increasing access to family planning services more generally will reduce the number of women treated for abortion-related complications and will also reduce unwanted pregnancies that can affect women’s health and limit their life-choices.
Smart Approach to Accessible Healthcare