New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Health organisations on Monday called for improved gender equality all over the world, particularly in the economy and access to healthcare.
They said women across the world have unique health needs that are often not addressed. In South-East Asia Region, for instance, about 61,000 women died in 2015 while giving birth, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Researchers have concluded that despite repeated attempts in several nations, nearly 38 percent of women in South Asian region have experienced gender-based violence at least once in their lifetime, said a survey done by Social Development Foundation of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and industry of India (Assocham).
“Achieving universal health coverage is one of the most effective ways to allow women to access the care they need. Universal coverage mitigates economic and physical barriers to accessing care and enhances women’s ability to take care of their health,” said Poonam Khetrapal, Regional Director for WHO South Asian Region.
Noting that women account for the bulk of the 1.6 million annual deaths from household air pollution, Khetrapal said that due to the economic structure of many households, investing in a woman’s or girl’s health is often overlooked in favour of other priorities.
Gender parity is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which is going to be observed on Tuesday.
“Health systems must strengthen and increase the provision of services tailored to women’s needs, including reproductive and sexual health services, as well as breast cancer screening,” said Khetrapal.
Poonam Muttreja, the executive director of Population Foundation of India (PFI), stressed the need to improve access to sexual and reproductive health rights to empower women and address gender inequalities, discrimination and violence.
“There is a greater urgency today to uphold women’s achievements, recognize the challenges that they face, and focus on their rights, empowerment and gender equality. Women must be able to exercise their rights, especially the right to informed choice, voluntary access to reproductive health and family planning services and control over their fertility,” said Muttreja.
“Girls continue to be forced to marry against their will in early age, a clear violation of their rights and a devastating form of violence. There are enduring societal norms, perceptions and attitudes which inhibit the pace of improvement in the condition and position of Indian women in society and economy.”
A recent survey by Assocham’s Social Development Foundation indicates one-fourth working women, especially those engaged in private sector at different levels, desire to quit their jobs for a number of reasons, including gender bias and workplace harassment.
“Gender bias together with workplace harassment and inconvenient working hours remained top reasons as to why majority of respondents wanted to quit their jobs,” noted the Assocham survey.
Commenting on health condition of women in India, Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of George Institute for Global Health said: “Non-communicable diseases (NCD) have emerged the largest killers of women in India – responsible for 60 percent of all deaths amongst women in 2013, up from 38 percent in 1990.”
He said that now the commonest causes of death in women – as in men – are ischemic heart disease (commonly called heart attack), stroke, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
“Women are particularly susceptible to certain conditions like lung disease secondary to exposure to biomass fuels and second hand smoke from male smokers. Women utilize health services less often despite large disease burden leading to inequality in outcomes. There has been no attention paid to it which can bring down the health diseases burden among women,” he said.