WOMEN HEALTH

SAIMA IBRAHIM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Apr 19 - 25, 2010

Since time unmemorable women's health concerns have not fully been understood or addressed. Women are a vulnerable group. They experience higher morbidity and disability than men through the life cycle.

Globally, more than one third of the disease burden for women of reproductive age is due to conditions that affect women exclusively or predominantly. Women face a wide range of health, risks, related to nutrition, reproductive health, violence, ageing, work, and lifestyles. Unfortunately, these risks are compounded by social and economic factors related to gender inequality and discrimination.

Women comprise over 50 per cent of the world's population and work more than 66 per cent of the total work hours, but generate only 15 per cent of the world's income, and own less than 5 per cent of the world's property.

A major share of women's health burdens relate to their reproductive and sexual health. Reproductive health problems begin in adolescence, including too-early pregnancies, unplanned and too-closely-spaced births and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Women are biologically more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS than men are and currently account for 43 per cent of all adults living with HIV/AIDS. Young women are disproportionately affected. Abortion also has a detrimental effect on women's health, with some 25 million abortions performed under unsafe conditions each year, resulting in the death of an estimated 70,000 women.

A large proportion of unwanted pregnancies and abortions would be avoided, and all women would benefit if safe and effective means of contraception were universally available.

Yet more than 100 million women who want to limit of space their pregnancies are still without the means to do so.

There is an urgent need for a more integrated approach to women's health, including their reproductive health, their rights, their roles and status in society and their access to education, health and economic and political opportunities, where they continue to be discriminated against and treated as second class citizens.

The work is governed by the goals and principles of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in September 1994. The Programme of Actions, which is anchored in a human rights framework, has set specific objectives for all countries relating to health, women's status and social development. Through it, we affirm our commitment and to the autonomy and empowerment of women everywhere.

Three main areas of work are to help ensure universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health to all couples and individuals on or before the year 2015; to support population and development strategies that enable capacity-building in population programming and; to promote awareness of population and development issues and advocate for the mobilisation of resources and political will to accomplish work.

Providing high quality reproductive health care and education for girls and women improves their position in the family and society, contributes to national development and leads to family well-being, increased use of family planning and lower fertility and infant mortality.

It is also necessary to encourage men to support women's advancement and to take greater responsibility for their health and social status. Political leaders and policy makers, community leaders and men in the family need to learn to value women as themselves, not as tools of demographic policy or means of bearing by children to continue to the family name.

WOMEN HEALTH STATUS IN PAKISTAN

There is a direct link between the health statuses of women and women's low societal standing in Pakistan. For instance, the maternal mortality rate in rural Balochistan is 800 maternal deaths to 100,000 live births. This ratio in the end adversely strikes at the health of her children as well as national economy. Not only can these but evident differences among health status of women and men are visible in Pakistani polity. The poor women's health is as much a social plight as it is medical.

Factors like lack of awareness regarding women's health requirements, low literacy ratio, low social status and civil constrains on females are responsible for women's below standard health in Pakistan. Men and women both are poorly educated about family planning consequently affecting the health of mother and child. Perhaps the greatest loss to the family and economy of a country as one need to comprehend that woman is the glory of all that is created.

Only one-third of the world's women enjoy educational benefits. Female genital mutilation, early marriage, sex selection abortion, and domestic violence are all problems facing women in much of the developing world.

As Professor Jose A. Pinotti, a past-President of FIGO, stated over a decade ago, "The social status of women and gender discrimination even in developed countries is still unacceptable, the gynecologist must be not only the woman's physician, but also the woman's advocate. We know and should let others know that empowerment of women is a sure prescription for health."

Women must have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. The involvement of women in decisions relating to reproductive health care will result in improvement in contraceptive access, reduction in maternal mortality, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and early diagnosis and treatment for cervical cancer. Having women involved in the political process will also help reduce the problem of female genital mutilation, and reduce inequality in education.

As concerned specialists and women's healthcare physicians, we should: (1) Work towards programs for safe motherhood to reduce maternal morbidity and maternal mortality; (2) Support universal access to family planning and reproductive health services; and (3) Endorse global measures to ensure gender equity, universal education, and the equality of women.