By Ikenna Osuoha
Nigeria Health Watch (NHW) has advocated for gender equality and bodily autonomy to bridge the gap between men and women.
Bodily autonomy means the right of a woman to make decisions especially about sexual and reproductive health right.
Mrs Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch (NHW), said this in a statement signed by Ms Uche Nwagboso, Communication Manager, Nigeria Health Watch, made available to newsmen on Monday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two-day Future of Health conference by NHW will take place Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, 2021 with the theme: “Breaking Glass Ceilings: Gender Equality for Sustainable Development”.
Ihekweazu said the first day of the conference would foster dialogue around women in media.
She added that there was need to make women’s representation in media more inclusive and develop more gender-balanced news stories for women’s voices to be heard.
Ihekweazu also emphasised the need to address the harmful gender norms to ensure that healthcare delivery was gender-responsive.
“Elevating the voices of women and girls through the media, ensuring more gender-balanced representation at the leadership level.
“This will be supported by men standing in solidarity with women to drive improved sustainable development outcomes,” she said.
Ihekweazu further explained that the future health conference would seek to place the focus on gender equality with the aim of amplifying the gender discourse.
According to her, Gender Equality still remains a fundamental issue in 2021 and has been more in the limelight because of the pandemic.
The Nigeria Health Watch boss said that over the last decade, significant progress had been made but many challenges still remained.
She expressed concern on why women still had fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, with less access to basic and higher education and less political representation.
“A very recent example is found in the COVID-19 response where although women accounted for 70 per cent of the global health workforce at the frontline of the COVID-19 response.
“Only one in 10 representatives on COVID-19 taskforces were women, and Nigeria was no different.”
Ihekweazu, said that #HeForShe was aimed at elevating conversation on how men could support women’s representation in male dominated leadership spaces.
“Women in Leadership amplify the critical importance of women in leadership as a driver of improved gender equality.”
She explained that the second day of the conference would be focused on Gender Equality for Quality Women’s Health.
“Gender inequality impacts on the health and social status of women and girls and their access to economic and educational resources, among others.’’
She said that women’s autonomy in making decisions about their health and bodies could be at odds with societal and cultural norms.
She added: “Discussions will be focused on Elevating the Importance of Better-Quality Women’s Healthcare, fostering dialogue around understanding the barriers that prevent women from accessing quality healthcare.”
Ihekweazu said that the essence of the conference was to improve advocacy for women to be better represented at the policy making level.
She called for more focus on men as change agents in enhancing the empowerment of women in the country.
“Men are often the decision-makers in families and determine women’s access and use of health services.
“So there will be a focus on men as Change Agents in Supporting Women’s Health as it is critical that health issues that disproportionately impact women are given a higher priority.”
She said that the final panel session would discuss the Girl Child dividend as timely investment in adolescents and youths was a vital social and economic building block that could lead to rapid economic development.
Shubham Chaudhuri, Country Director, World Bank Nigeria, maintained that to accelerate Nigeria’s slow demographic transition and to quickly realise a potential demographic dividend, Nigeria needed to invest more on youths particularly girls.
“They are able to effectively contribute to the economy if they are equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities to participate in the labor market”.
“It should be noted that The Future of Health Conference has consistently remained a leading platform where policymakers, healthcare professionals, development partners and non-governmental organizations are eager to find solutions in the Nigerian health sector.’’
Nigeria Health Watch is a trusted source that provides informed commentary and in-depth analysis of health issues in Nigeria. (NAN)