International Day of Action for Women’s Health: An Interview with UN Women

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Sumary of International Day of Action for Women’s Health: An Interview with UN Women:

  • Thought LeadersNazneen DamjiSenior Policy Advisor for Gender Equality, HIV, and HealthUN Women In commemoration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, we interviewed Nazneen Damji, from UN Women, about the health challenges women face in 2021..
  • With over 20 years of professional experience promoting women rights and gender equality, she oversees UN Women policy and programming efforts on gender equality dimensions of HIV and AIDS, as well as, women health, including sexual and reproductive rights..
  • women and girls are facing acute hardships, including higher rates of poverty, increased care burdens, greater exposure to violence, and obstructed access to sexual and reproductive health services..
  • And with few women directing policy responses at the national and local levels, such issues are not being sufficiently prioritized and resourced..
  • Immediate and sustained action is needed to stop the derailing of hard-won gains in gender equality and women empowerment..
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has put almost universal pressure on the gains in gender equality made since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint for advancing women rights..
  • Gender, independently and intersecting with other determinants of health, including socioeconomic status, disability, ethnicity, geography, age, legal identity and migration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, can influence access and coverage of essential health interventions, thereby directly affecting health outcomes..
  • They operate across many dimensions of life and determine whether people needs are acknowledged, whether they have voice or control over their lives and health, and whether they can realize their rights..
  • vulnerability to ill health, household decision-making and health-seeking behavior, access to and utilization of health services, the design and use of health products, commodities, and technology, the nature of the health labor force, the implications of health financing, what data is collected and how it is managed, and how health policies and programs are developed and implemented..
  • Conversely, there are numerous pathways by which greater gender equality and women empowerment can lead to improvements in health and quality of life for women and their families..
  • Women with greater agency are more likely to have fewer children, more likely to access health services and have control over health resources, and less likely to suffer domestic violence..
  • Their children are more likely to survive, receive better childcare at home and receive health care when they need it..
  • Healthy women and girls are more able to actively participate in society and take collective action to advance their own interests, such as demanding rights-based, gender-responsive health services..
  • It is clear that gender equality and women empowerment are inextricably linked to positive health outcomes, thus it is necessary that existing gender biases in the social, cultural, institutional, legal, and economic structures are addressed..
  • It is critical that women and girls are involved in the design and delivery of health services and are empowered to claim their rights to these services..
  • The International Day of Action for Women Health is celebrated every year and a large part of their message is surrounding women sexual and reproductive rights, described as ‘an indivisible and inalienable part of our human rights’..
  • With women all over the world being systematically violated, why is important to celebrate women sexual and reproductive rights and their human right to make their own decision with their body?.
  • Women and girls’ bodily autonomy and decision-making around their health is central to achieving gender equality..
  • The ability of women to control what happens to their own bodies is associated with the roles they are able to play in society, whether as a member of the family, the workforce, or the government..
  • The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and individual agency, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence..
  • Only 55% of women aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union make their own decisions about sexual relations and the use of contraceptives and reproductive health services..
  • Supporting women and girls’ bodily integrity includes addressing various points when they need information, services, skills, and opportunities to make choices about their own health..
  • Empowering women and girls’ right to make informed choices is one of the most effective pathways to improve health outcomes as well as fulfill women potential as agents of change..
  • UN Women is an energetic advocate of ‘universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and recognizes that women have the right to control and decide freely on matters concerning their sexuality..
  • Through the efforts of the Generation Equality Forum, UN Women, with the Governments of France and Mexico, and in partnership with civil society, and youth, has launched a Global Acceleration Plan for an Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Rights, co-created by a multi-stakeholder partnership with governments, civil society, youth-led organizations, international organizations, philanthropies and the private sector to deliver transformational progress through four concrete actions:.
  • 2) Increase the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of comprehensive abortion and contraception services;.
  • and 4) strengthen girls, women and feminist organizations and networks to promote and protect bodily autonomy and SRHR..
  • These actions are critical as the world rebuilds after COVID19 and is a call for others to join in accelerating investments and implementation to support women and girls’ rights..
  • HIV is a global health problem faced by women and it is most prevalent in young girls and adolescents aged 15-24..
  • What are some of the factors that fuel this statistic and what resources and preventative measures can be carried out to help these women?.
  • Globally, there were more women living with HIV and they constituted nearly half of the new HIV infections in 2019.[1] Overall, new HIV infections among women continue to decline..
  • Yet, the pace of the progress is slow and uneven – new HIV infections among women in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Middle East, and Latin America continue to climb..
  • around 4,500 adolescent girls and young women became infected with HIV every week in 2019.[2] Unequal power dynamics and gender norms continue to put adolescent girls and young women at a greater risk of HIV and hamper their ability to mitigate the impact of the epidemic..
  • 1 in 3 women, including young women, experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime,[3] increasing their risk of acquiring HIV by 50%.[4] AIDS remains one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age.[5] Discriminatory laws and practices, such as the age of consent laws, restrict young women ability to access sexual and reproductive health and services..
  • Only one-third of young women and girls have comprehensive HIV knowledge.[6] Empowering young women and adolescent girls and guaranteeing their rights is imperative for their bodily autonomy, their ability to use the knowledge and skills to negotiate safer sex in order to protect themselves from HIV infection and mitigate its impact..
  • We need to scale up effective interventions to increase HIV knowledge and transform gender norms and enhance girls’ access to services..
  • Removing discriminatory laws and practices that put adolescent girls and young women under heightened risk to HIV is key..
  • Resolving the digital gender gap, especially in times of COVID-19, is a critical approach and essential to equalize access so that young women and girls can capitalize on all the benefits of the digital world and its innovations and access decent employment opportunities and professional growth..
  • Therefore, we are pleased to be working with our sister organizations – UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFPA, and UNAIDS – on the joint initiative Education Plus to ensure we can alter the course, and transform societies to enable the path for young women and girls to be free of HIV, empowered, educated, and economically secure..
  • How does UN Women work to inspire young leaders and what message would you give to young people and adults wanting to become leaders within their field?.
  • Related Stories Today’s youth should not be dismissed as the leaders of tomorrow because many young women are already leading today..
  • UN Women calls upon all partners to ensure that young women, particularly those living and affected by HIV, have a formal seat at the table and a safe space to raise their needs and priorities at all levels of where the decisions are made..
  • UN Women also creates new and sustains existing informal and formal platforms for young women meaningful engagement and we call upon tracking this engagement more consistently..
  • For example, in South Africa, young women living with HIV participated in and inputted the review of the existing legislation on violence against women and prepared policy recommendations to address the needs and priorities of women living with HIV and to include measures to prevent HIV for the survivors of sexual violence..
  • With UN Women support, young advocates engaged with the Minister of Justice and shared their proposals to the three bills:.
  • (see the related story ‘In South Africa, young women leading HIV and violence prevention say men involvement is key’)..
  • We also are mobilizing gender advocates across the movements of women organizations, traditional and faith-based leaders, men and boys, youth organizations, change-makers, and others to amplify our collective strengths and build a stronger movement of young women leaders..
  • program in Malawi, Uganda, and Kenya, in just 9 months, mobilized over 1,000 young women champions, including 250 girls living with HIV..
  • Young women were involved in the design and validation of national assessments on the status of HIV amongst adolescents and youth….

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