International Women’s Day 2019: Healthy Women-Healthy Economies

There is surely a gender divide in all aspects of life. Men and women may share the same environment, but their worlds are poles apart. Despite being affluent and educated most women to experience a gender bias which leads to inequality. In many places around the world, women are still not treated as full-fledged members of society. Despite the progressive movements that are pressing for change, vast inequities remain worldwide. In many nations, being a woman still means makes you a second-class citizen. Gender bias reflects the inequality in access to education, health care, resources and political, economic, social-cultural opportunities.

The financial status is globally disheartening. Despite that women perform 66 percent of the world’s work they make up 70 percent of the world’s poor population. Women receive only 11 percent of the world’s income and own only 1 percent of the world’s land.  Approximately unremunerated work -$11 billion represents an invisible contribution of women. The women who are remunerated for their work, are usually paid 30-40% less than men for comparable work. From the perspective of opportunity women make up less than 5% of the world’s heads of state and less than 1% of CEOs in the world are women. Women hold between 10-20% managerial & administrative jobs. Also, two-thirds of the world’s children who receive less than four years of education are girls. Girls represent nearly 60 percent of children not in school. Women make up 66 percent of the world’s illiterate adults and head 83 percent of single-parent families. Surely some initiatives like “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” will change these figures. But it is a known fact that a major factor for school drop out in girls is lack of clean and safe toilets in school. Although many initiatives are ongoing for improving the conducive hygienic environment to reduce these dropouts.

The health statistics for women in India is dismal with almost 92% of women suffering from gynecological problems. Reportedly 300 women die every day due to childbirth and pregnancy-related causes. Maternal mortality is the leading cause of death among women aged 15 to 19 in low-resource settings. And girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die while giving birth than women in their 20s. Ninety percent of maternal deaths could be prevented with proven, low-cost solutions, but the global community has not prioritized getting these interventions in place. Pregnancy-related deaths of women and newborns are estimated to cost the world at least US$ 15 billion in lost productivity every year. Where the health of women is deprioritized, economic growth will fall short of its potential. Yet, healthcare systems in many countries are not geared up in full potential to safeguard women health issues.

Despite that 60-80% of food in developing countries is produced by women, most malnutrition in women is also prevalent here. Average nutritional intake of women is 1400 calories daily(whereas the requirement is approximately 2200 calories).

Sustainable economic growth cannot be achieved if women are unable to fully participate in the economy due to health implications. It is observed in studies that 865 million women worldwide have the potential to contribute more fully to their economies and raise GDP levels by 5-9%To increase the participation of women in the economy by raising their wellness index initiatives are being taken by global bodies. One such effort is “Healthy Women, Healthy Economies” initiative which convenes government (health, labor, gender officials), the private sector, academia and other interested stakeholders to raise awareness and promote good practices to enhance women’s economic participation by improving women’s health. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2014 established a public-private-partnership called Healthy Women, Healthy Economies (HWHE).) It addresses the access issues, as well as the interface between women and the production of health care through paid and unpaid work and the impact on women’s economic participation and success in the workplace. It is focused on easing and making more equitable the caregiving responsibilities at home that are so often entirely placed on women.

The areas of intervention identified in this respect are the so-called four main “pillars” which are the actionable areas to be worked on. These include

  • Health, including maternal and reproductive health
  • Education, primarily keeping girls in school, increasing health awareness and building job readiness
  • Economic Empowerment, emphasizing access to the training and resources needed to increase financial independence
  • Rights and Inclusion, such as gender-based violence and engaging men and boys

We all aspire of a world in which gender is no longer a barrier to an individual achieving their full economic, social and political potential. Everyone benefits when you have a nation of healthy individuals, empowered communities and a healthcare system which works for everyone. Healthy women surely will contribute immensely to the healthy economy of the nation.

Dr. Kanika Sharma I Clinical Lead & Senior Consultant – Radiation Oncology I Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Vasundhara Enclave, Delhi

(90 Posts)

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