The Health sector and its impact on eliminating Gender Based Violence

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Saba Habtu, a 5th year medical student at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Imagine all the women you meet or pass by in your daily life. Now think about this: according to UN Women, 1 in 3 women have been assaulted physically and/or sexually across their lifetime. This data also shows that most gender based violence are made by intimate partners or a nearby person. A shocking statistic. The pandemic of COVID-19 has also seen an exponential growth in the occurrence of gender based violence. It has made it clear that there needs to be more work done if we want to eliminate gender based violence once and for all.

There are three types of gender based violence: physical, verbal and sexual. Health practitioners and medical students worldwide should antagonize any forms of violence against women. Health professionals can start showing their stance by making health institutions a safe place for women and children.

Survivors of gender based violence should be encouraged to use the services of medical centers when they are harmed and assaulted. As health professionals are one of the earliest to be contacted in crime scenes, they should show support and unity in these critical moments. Health practitioners should applaud survivors and victims for coming to seek healthcare. Victims should get their medical assistance with extreme compassion and respect. They need to be shown empathy and have everyone’s support at healthcare centers. Medical staff should listen to their stories and stand with them in legal proceedings without fear. This will encourage other survivors to do the same.

We, in the health sector, should put ourselves in the shoes of survivors of violence and feel their pain and share in their sufferings. In addition, we should consistently work with victims to provide psychosocial support and help them heal their trauma. We can participate in forming support groups that work to help survivors connect with each other and create their own safe space. We can also engage local communities in the discussion so that we can reach the root cause.

As medical students, we should raise awareness about gender based violence as well as sexual and reproductive health in our communities. We should constantly inform ourselves about the significance and the impact of gender based violence and use our knowledge to spread awareness to the public. We should openly oppose views that blame victims and work actively to encourage women to speak out about their violence.

Last but not least, health practitioners and medical students should join hands and collaborate with local human rights and women activist associations to organize demonstrations and call for policy changes. We should work with legal systems to bring perpetrators to justice to receive consequences for their crime. We should use social media for echoing against the increasing number of gender based violence and murder cases.

We should work hand in hand to stop associated stigmas and discriminations that survivors of violence go through each day. I believe all health professionals should be advocates and leaders in their society when it comes to ending gender based violence.

About the author

Saba Habtu is a 5th year medical student at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. She is an active member of IFMSA and has served as a secretary of SCOME in her local member organization during the past year. She is also active in SCORE and SCORA activities and plans to pursue medical research in the future. She likes to volunteer in local activities in her spare time.

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