Women are an integeral part of our society and therefore their health needs (which are in a deteriorating state especially in the developing countries) should be given utmost priority. The world bank’s latest agenda on womens health and nutrition not only recognizes the problems of womens health world over, but has also formulated preventative methods and cost effective interventions for maximum health gains.
This report will highlight, first of all, womens’ health needs, how they can be prevented, and the interventions that are necessary and feasible. Womens’ health needs have become a global issue raising international concern.
Key Issues pertaining to Womens’ health needs:
1. Womens’ low socio-economic status and reproductive role. There is a correlation between poor health, premature death and poverty. Womens’ reproductive years are the most critical which should be given special emphasis. Government should place priority on improving the prenatal care of women in developing countries.
2. Biological and social factors affect womens’ health throughout their lives leaving lasting effects. There are regions in the developing world where girls are deprived of basic health rights, and do not receive the proper nutrition. Many are neglected on a physical and emotional level as boys are given greater precedence.
3. A major cause of death amongst women of reproductive age is linked to child birth complications. Many of those who survive the rigors of childhood suffer from disabilities sustained during their pregnancies. A system has to be implemented where women of low-economic socio staus are given the same health care benefits as their well off counterparts. Child birth complications are invariably related to low socio-economic status.
4. Domestic abuse, rape ands sexual abuse knows no borders and is a global phenomenon that affects women worldwide. Unfortunately some women are more susceptible than others to suffer from an unequal power distribution between men and women. Due to lack of education/awareness many women in developing countries do not know their rights. Such women are exposed to involuntary sex, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV/ AIDS). Many have limited access to family planning measures. Unplanned pregnancies are a common occurrence in regions where family planning is an unheard concept.
5. “Malnutrition affects 450 million women in developing countries” (A.Tinker, 2000).
Scores of pregnant women are malnourished as well, and the situation becomes even more serious as infant mortality becomes common. Iron, iodine and vitamin A deficiencies are widespread and can easily be treated. Lifestyle changes have to be implemented where women have access to necessary vitamins, and minerals such as iron and iodine. .Above mentioned problems pertaining to womens health can be improved if there is a strong and sustained government commitment, a favourable policy environment and well targeted resources.
6. Female genital mutilation is a common practice in many African countries. It is a cultural practice that is deeply rooted in countries such as Ghana, Saudia Arabia Dijbouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Somalia. . This practice has been recognized as human rights violation and steps have been taken by the World Bank to eradicate this practice.
Womens’ reproductive years are the most critical which should be given special emphasis. Government should place priority on improving the prenatal care of women in developing countries.
Instances of where these policies have been successful are as follows:
1. In Korea there was a spike in domestic violence that was a result of an economic crisis. The Korean government then took steps to address this issue. They made it a national priority and put policies in place that would lead to the elimination of domestic violence / domestic abuse. The World Bank worked with the Korean government by providing the Korean government with funds. The joint venture resulted in a workshop that was sponsored by the Korean government and was financially facilitated by the World Bank. By all accounts the workshop was a huge success. It was originally thought that only two hundred applicants would participate and in the end approximately four hundred people took part. (A.Tinker, 2000)
2. The Bangladeshi government decided to start a project to reduce the severe level of malnutrition in 1995. “The program has been hugely successful as more than 120,000 children and 140,000 malnourished pregnant women were direct beneficiaries of the program.” (A. Tinker, 2000)
The program was able to supply more than half of the enrolled breast feeding mothers and expectant mothers with supplementary foods. Eighty percent of these expectant mothers were recipients of mineral tablets such as iron. Approximately ninety percent of the women were given Vitamin A supplements after they had given birth. (A.Tinker, 2000)
A global concerted effort has been made to eradicate the inhumane and
barbaric practice of FGM otherwise known as female genital mutilation. “A council known as The Declaration and Platform for Action of both the International Conference on Population and Development and the Fourth World Conference on Women made it a paramount issue to eradicate female genital mutilation. These forums were held in 1994 and 1995 respectively” (A.Tinker, 2000).
Since that time, approximately one third of the twenty eight African countries where FGM is a common occurrence, have rendered the practice as illegal and have banned it. “The first country to legally ban female genital mutilation was Ghana in 1994. It was the first independent African state to pass legislature banning female genital mutilation. Countries such as Senegal and Cotecd’Ivoire followed suit and female genital mutilation was banned in both countries in 1999.” (A. Tinker, 2000)
World Bank is one of the first organizations to place special emphasis on womens’ health issues. In order to improve a woman’s quality of life, education is key, and would enable her to become financially independent. Nutrition and reproduction are issues that the World Bank has given special consideration to. A correlation between population control and poverty has also been noted. By setting up family planning clinics, women are equipped with the know how on how to plan for a family.
Merely educating the women of a society is not enough. It is necessary to educate the public that investing in a woman’s well-being is in the community’s best interest. There are many regions in the developing world where women face a gender bias that results in their being at the short end of the receiving line.
All institutions across the board such as governments, NGOs, civil institutions (hospitals and schools) have to be committed to bringing about this change. If all work in tandem, only then can we can expect to see an improvement in the condition of over half the worlds’ population.