Balancing The Broken See-Saw of Gender Power Dynamics as a Medical Student

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Divya Naisheril, a second year MBBS student from Government Medical College and Hospital, Jalgaon. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

It is known, women’s rights are human rights. Yet, a difference emerges in the social, economic and political settings that births an unjust imbalance between the genders. This Gender Balance See-Saw of the world we live in remains broken, asymmetrically tipping down the women and persistently robbing them of the privileges that they rightfully own. So, what are women’s rights and what can we do as medical students to bridge the many gaps that still exist? The rights to live free from violence, slavery, discrimination; to be educated; to own a property; to vote; to earn a fair and equal wage, was established by the United Nations about 70 years ago extending towards every individual. However, over the years, it became increasingly necessary to highlight women’s rights, due to the lack there of.

Women’s rights activists from across the globe have advocated for empowerment, thereby, having contributed majorly to the weakening of the long standing issue of sexism. Despite these endeavours, gender bias continues to be immanent and entrenched in the society. This narrow progress, however, is endangered with the current ongoing Covid 19 pandemic intensifying the stresses of gender inequality, especially, within the healthcare system. On one hand, women in medical settings (as doctors, nurses, midwives, etc.) occupy 70% of the total staff, and thus, putting them at a higher risk of exposure to the virus, whilst, also being heavily underpaid compared to men in the respective work experience. On the other hand, women are denied any representation in response planning and other decision making roles. Moreover, a negligence towards equal gender considerations is seen with the incidences such as low availability of sanitary products and a lack of choice but to use the default man sized loose-fitting clinical masks and other protective gears. Additionally, these issues extend to the receivers of medical care, as well. For example, lesser accessibility to maternal health care, contraception and sexual health services has been heightened due to the redirection of force towards managing Covid generated problems.

Every small step taken towards advocacy is responsible for bringing a change. The ‘Four A’s’ (Acknowledge, Attention, Action, Awareness) represent a plan of action that can be employed at a student level, especially, and also otherwise. The first step would be to acknowledge the prevalence and severity of the gender disproportions embedded deeply within our communities; irrespective of our position in the gender spectrum. Secondly, it is important to be receptive of your immediate surroundings and learn from it. Notice the incidences of the above mentioned struggles and talk to people to address the issues. Social norms and gender roles being so intricately rooted in our system leads to instances borne without mal intentions, affirming to stereotypical gender roles, as an example. Therefore, it also holds equal importance to introspect and correct any mistakes, if any. Next, as a medical student, a non-biased approach towards both the care seekers and fellow health providers is a must. Moreover, basic education on human rights, accessing maternal healthcare, contraception, sexual educations, can be provided to women during clinical rounds, appropriately. Lastly, awareness plays a big role in passing on the information learned. Campaigns, campus events, sessions with women’s rights activists can be organised to emphasize and educate.

To conclude, prejudice and violence against women still exists in most parts of the globe. However, repairing this gender see-saw and redistributing the power dynamics equally amongst all genders is a collective effort of individuals at all levels that makes achieving a prosperous world an achievable goal.

About the author

Divya Naisheril is a second year MBBS student from Government Medical College and Hospital, Jalgaon. She is passionate about acquiring, as well as, sharing knowledge and she gets to do so as the Local Public Health Officer under MSAI (Medical Student Association of India). Additionally, she has published a review paper on PCOS on the IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences and volunteered in awareness campaigns highlighting the importance of eye, blood and organ donations in saving lives. She enjoys writing for a cause or as a literary activity, therefore, she started and run the literature society of their college along with three others.

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