Violence prevention: Gender equality and women’s health journey during Covid-19

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sadia Khalid, Junior researcher, and a PhD candidate at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Estonia. 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.

Promotion of gender equality is integral in prevention of violence. Gender and violence relationship is multiplex. However, it is evident historically that the risk of violence by men against women increases significantly due to gender inequalities and impedes the emotional and physical ability of those affected to seek protection.

There are many forms of violence against women however, this article focuses on violence prevention through women’s empowerment.Gender equality and women’s health goals faced major risks and setbacks during the covid-19 pandemic. The young global leaders will be too young in the coming decades to remember the 1995 Beijing Declaration.

Over the past 25 years serious actions were taken in several areas of women’s health and wellbeing to promote the human rights of women and girls and gender equality. Despite the important progress made in gender discrimination, bias and inequalities persist. The global community will face a major failure if this issue remains widespread in the coming decade. One of the new and emerging threats disproportionately impacting women’s health is the covid-19 pandemic.

The socioeconomic impact on women’s health will be immediate and long-term. Nonetheless, progress is still achievable. We need to recognize the fact that women bear the disproportionate burden of underappreciated unpaid care work, they work in informal sectors and are not employed. This unequal distribution of caring responsibilities is associated with stereotypes and discrimination. The paid employment and unpaid care work should be valued equally.

Addressing and raising awareness about ingrained harmful gender norms and stereotypes is a pivotal step for successful implementation of equality policies which will notably reduce the double work for women across all ranges of socio-economic areas leading to progress in women’s empowerment areas. Sexual and reproductive healthcare should be given paramount importance and must be included in Universal coverage for health and social protection through tax-based systems (based on government & informal work sectors) along with services like childcare, paid parental, sick, and family care leave.

Globally this would improve gender equality and health equity. We expect women and girls to have full control over their Bodily autonomy. Discreet attention should be given to people facing discrimination due to age, ethnicity, migration, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among others. Health care still struggles for legitimacy as a legacy of male bias in research, development, and innovation for health still exists causing negligence towards the women and girls health. Inequalities in healthcare should not be overlooked.

Equitable access to digital and sustainable technologies is required along with strict measures to ensure online privacy for women and girls. Despite many efforts to bring women leaders to the top of global institutions (government, health, and development agencies) yet workplace still faces a lack of diversity, gender equality and remains primarily led by men.

A future should hold a promise where we expect rare occurrences of maternal deaths—particularly in women from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Reduced incidence of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and poor mental health. Sexually transmissible infections to be prevented and cured among young women and girls and fewer occurrences to be expected.

The Covid-19 crisis tested the strength of the healthcare system across the globe. The importance of stronger health systems to mitigate the harms caused to women and girls during the covid-19 crisis became more crucial. Well-prepared health systems can offer uninterrupted essential services in need more efficiently, especially services for victims of gender-based violence.

Strengthening health systems means that there is an utmost need for safe and decent work conditions which prevent sexual harassment and violence, ensuring women have appropriately designed protective equipment, eliminating the gender pay gap, and adequate wages for women for care work. Investment in the gender equality movement is crucial as gender equality programs still are highly underfunded by overseas development assistance.

Adequate long-term financing of gender equality movements is key to long-term legislative accountability. Community, educational institutes, and social media interventions can play a critical part in promoting gender equality and preventing violence against women by challenging stereotypes that give men or society power over women. Lastly, we see a future where we establish a safe and violence-free life for all.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest

Reference: World Health Organization. Sexual and reproductive health interventions in the WHO UHC compendium. 2021

About the author

Sadia Khalid, Junior researcher, and a PhD candidate at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Estonia. She has been working on her research project “The role of Helicobacter pylori intestinal microbiota in the development of liver diseases” under supervision of Dr. Pirjo Spuul at Faculty of Science, Institute of Chemistry and Biotechnology.,TalTech. Previously, she has worked as a research specialist in biomedicine and translational medicine department in the university of Tartu, Estonia. She obtained her MD in emergency medicine in 2017 from the Dalian Medical university, China and MBChB in 2013 from the Weifang Medical university, China. Her current research interests include infectious diseases, bacteriology, hepatology, and gastroenterology.

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