We have made tremendous progress toward achieving women’s rights over the years. However, massive gender gaps persist. There are still increased cases of gender-based violence and women continue to provide the biggest percentage of unpaid, but essential care work.
Transformative change toward gender equality requires further investments, changes in law and policies, interventions to shift social and gender norms, and the audacity to change power relations. For example, we urgently need a witness protection law that ensures that witnesses and survivors of gender-based violence are protected.
We also need to invest in the establishment of gender-based violence shelters where survivors are able to access a full range of services including psychological support. Our public health system that serves most women is substantially under-resourced to guarantee the right to health for the most vulnerable women in our community. The world would be better off with more women as leaders, entrepreneurs, and agents of change for development.
Women and girls are still struggling to access health services and that women and girls are disproportionately affected by barriers to accessing and using health services. For example, women and girls experience structural barriers, including financial hardship, lack of transport (especially in rural areas) and lack of time because of a care burden or other unpaid labour. The existence of specialised sexual and reproductive services for women is essential in addressing the huge structural barriers that women and girls across the world experience in accessing health care. Much more must be done to communicate the importance of gender as a barrier to access health services.
Processes for achieving Universal Health Coverage are gender blind, and COVID-19 has shown that women and girls are still being left behind. Cases of Gender Based Violence, teenage and unplanned pregnancies skyrocketed during the pandemic. To achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 of health and wellbeing for all, it is imperative to transform health systems so they are intersectional- and gender-responsive.
The writer is the Executive Director for Center For Health Human Rights and Development.
A version of this article was published in the New Vision Newspaper page 40, on Wednesday March 8th 2023.