- PPI Web Desk
Geneva: The COVID-19 pandemic has left it marks on all sections of societies, having the worst effect on the most vulnerable groups which already faced disadvantages, challenges and threats to their lives before the pandemic started. Women and children represent a large part of these vulnerable groups. Last week in Paris, the Generation Equality Forum took place at a moment where the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated existing gender inequalities across the globe.
To empower women and girls, the World Health Organization (WHO) at this occasion announced various commitments, focusing on ending gender-based violence; advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights; and supporting health workers as well as feminist movements and leadership. These commitments aim to advance gender equality, health equity, human rights and the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
The Forum in Paris marked the 25th anniversary of the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Women”. WHO led two main areas of the Forum. The Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence (co-led with UN Women and other partners) and the Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative between France, Women in Global Health and WHO.
The health sectors plays a crucial part in responding to gender-based violence and taking preventive measures. Therfore the WHO committed to the following:
- Introduce clinical protocols focusing on a comprehensive, survivor-centred, empathetic health response for women and girls subjected to violence in many more countries;
- To scale up evidence-based prevention of violence against women and girls in 25 countries with high prevalence, guided by the RESPECT framework;
- Support the uptake by health providers, policymakers and managers of a training course on health responses to violence against women and girls through the WHO Academy;
- Create a comprehensive database to monitor implementation of the Global Action Plan and regularly publishing prevalence estimates from the Global Database;
- Partner with UN agencies to scale up the availability of essential, multi-sectoral and survivor-centred services with functional referral mechanisms, for women and girls in all their diversity, in at least 25 high prevalence countries;
- Implementation of the Global Plan of Action on health systems’ response to violence against women and girls.
Further on WHO will invest more in the evidence base for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including delivering comprehensive sexuality education outside school settings; improving access to quality and rights-based family planning in 14 middle-income countries ; supporting 25 countries in increasing adolescents’ access to and use of contraception; disseminating updated guidelines on safe abortion; and building knowledge among adolescents of their entitlements and ability to advocate for their needs.
Together with UNICEF and UNFPA, WHO promised to put an end to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriages. Quality health services will be provided to victims of female genital mutilation and underage married girls.
Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeated WHO’s commitment to ensure decent and safe environment for health and care workers, particularly women. The four pillars initiative are to be introduced in several countries, these are gender equal leadership; equal pay; protection against sexual harassment and violence; decent and safe working conditions.
To support feminist movements and women human rights defenders, WHO will:
- Renew its gender policy and strategy;
- Offer internship opportunities for persons with feminist leadership experience;
- Promote civil society participation in health systems, COVID-19 response and recovery activities;
- Encourage gender parity in World Health Assembly delegations, WHO panels and advisory groups; and
- Facilitate menstrual hygiene and promote awareness.
WHO will also support countries to address gender-related barriers to polio vaccination, collect and analyze data to ensure girls and boys are reached equally, and to raise women’s participation and decision-making across all levels of the programme.
WHO plans to boost efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. WHO’s accountability functions aim to increase policy coherence, address gaps, and ensure that these policy and procedures will efficiently protect women, their families and communities.
A priority will be the focus on how allegations and cases are managed, and that practical steps are taken to safeguard people more effectively from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. Partners will empower communities to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment.