Tackling Gender Inequality Through Health Equity

Still today, in almost all societies around the world, women are less well-off than men. Women are still paid less than men; they are less represented in business, politics and decision-making. Their life chances remain overwhelmingly less promising than those of men.

This inequality hurts us all. The world would be 20% better off if women were paid the same as men. Delaying early marriage in the developing world by just a few years would add more than $500 billion to annual global economic output by 2030.

But this is more than a problem of lost income. For women and girls in poor countries, it cuts life short before it can flourish.

Today, 830 women will die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. This month, 450,000 children under the age of five will die. This year, 151 million children will have their education and employment opportunities limited due to stunting. If current trends continue, 150 million more girls will be married by 2030.

Clearly, we need to accelerate progress so that no woman or child is left behind.

We need to allow women to time and space pregnancies as they choose, support safe deliveries, breastfeeding, and other basic services that are critical for health and nutrition. Good health leads to better educational attainment, and full participation in the labor force.

Bold new thinking is required to transform the lives of women, children and adolescents. It begins by making their lives our first priority in development. It means alignment between international donors and national governments to ramp up funding, and a global commitment to life-saving and health-enhancing services for every woman, child and adolescent.

There should be funding facility dedicated to improving health and life chances for women and children in the poorest countries through gender budgeting schemes. More investment in health sector will strengthen the delivery of quality services across pregnancy, birth, early years and adolescence by incentivizing governments prioritize spending on health and nutrition.

The early results of the increased health spending are promising, and a recent study showed that just $US2.6 billion financing could catalyze up to US$75 billion of additional money by 2030—70% of which will come from increases in countries’ own domestic resources. It also showed that as many as 35 million lives could be saved by 2030 if global health investments contributing to maternal and child mortality continue to grow at current rates.

First, it puts countries in the driver’s seat and rallies financial and implementation support towards their priorities, based on what they know will work on the ground. Second, it helps governments harness financing from multiple sources towards a single set of goals. This includes governments’ own resources, so they have skin in the game.

Finally, the more healthcare investment has a strong focus on results so health ministers can make the case for a greater share of the overall domestic budget. The Government of Cameroon is a case in point. as it has committed to dramatically increase its national budget allocation for primary and secondary healthcare, from 8% in 2017 to 20% by 2020. This 150% expansion in government financing for health will help to accelerate access to safe and quality services for mothers and children.

And in the northeast of Nigeria, where there has been long-lasting conflict, health spending support has helped to re-establish maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services. By linking funding to health results, local governments are making rapid progress—including increasing births attended by (midwives) health professionals from an estimated 5% coverage to 40%.

More than 2 billion people live in countries that spend less than $25 per capita on health. This is less than a third of what is needed for countries to provide basic, life-saving health services for their people.

More countries today are responding to an urgent need for their nations to transform health financing in order to accelerate progress on universal health coverage and to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets of ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths and improving the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

SDG 3 calls for ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and SDG 5 calls for achieving Gender Equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

Together we can invest in the empowerment of women and children in poor countries and strengthen countries’ capacity to finance the health of their people sufficiently and sustainably. Together, we can make unprecedented progress towards a fairer and more prosperous world.

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