WHO advocates gender equality for economic development

Gloria Essien, Abuja

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the international community to bridge the gap of gender based inequality to create rapid economic and transformational development.

The Officer in Charge, WHO Nigeria, Dr. Fiona Braka, made this call at the commemoration of the International Women’s Day, in Abuja Nigeria’s Capital.

Speaking on behalf of the regional Director of WHO,  Dr. Braka said addressing and solving gender based differences is the priority of the WHO.

“World Health Organization has prioritized and promoted leadership in gender, equity and rights across all its health policies and programmes with a view to achieving universal health coverage and attaining the triple billion goals set out in our new Programme of Work to improve health outcomes for women and girls so they can realize their potential and contribute to transformative socio-economic and political development in the Africa region.

The International Women’s Day marked annually on March 8, is a global event to celebrate and support women’s right, empower them with the awareness to know their potentials and a call for gender equality.

Dr. Braka, said that a lot has been done towards bridging the gender based gap on the continent, but more still needs to be done to close the reoccurring gaps.

African women are increasingly occupying positions of power and influencing bolder legislation and policy-making and demonstrating to other women that they too have a voice and can make decisions on issues impacting their lives.  Rwanda has the largest proportion of female parliamentarians in the world (61%), and together with Ethiopia, has near-parity in ministerial positions; in Namibia, the proportion of women in parliament stands at about 46%. These positive developments, however, mask the fact that the region’s gender gap has started to widen again due to significant inter-country variations in educational attainment, political empowerment, wage equality and the numbers of women engaged in professional and technical work’’.

Dr. Fiona Braka, gave a highlights on some of the countries that have closed health and survival gender gap on the continent.

“Many countries in our region have made great strides towards gender parity in education, health, economic and political systems, and have incorporated multi-sectoral actions for advancing women’s health through the life course in their national health development strategies.  These advances are reflected in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report which shows that, over the past decade, our region has improved more than any other in closing the health and survival gender gap. Indeed, two countries in the region — Botswana and Lesotho — have fully closed both their educational attainment and health and survival gender gaps’’.

Braka noted “that deep-seated gender, equity and rights issues are responsible for the persistently high number of HIV-related deaths, especially among young women, as well  as unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and other harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation. We must also confront lifestyle issues and risk factors contributing to the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases among women in Africa; ensure that girls remain in school until the completion of their secondary education; and end all forms of violence against women and girls.

The theme of this year’s International women’s day celebration is “Think equal, build smart, and innovate for change”.