Gender, equity and human rights

Gender, equity, human rights team newsletter 2017

September 2017

Equity, gender and human rights are at the heart of universal health coverage

Dear colleagues and friends,

The Gender, Equity and Human Rights (GER) team at WHO has been keeping quite busy! We recently welcomed a new Director-General to WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Dr Tedros has made universal health coverage a priority for his term, because ensuring equitable health care for all means healthier families, communities and countries. We thank Dr Tedros for also prioritizing health as a rights issue, alongside gender equality and upholding women’s rights in his vision of global health and development. Welcome Dr Tedros!

July saw the launch of an updated version of the Health Equity Assessment Toolkit (HEAT), HEAT Plus and a package of health inequality monitoring tools and resources. Indonesia’s government is using these tools to identify those most disadvantaged and ensure no one is being left behind in accessing health services. A recent report that 1 in 10 infants worldwide did not receive any vaccinations in 2016 shows that health inequality monitoring tools, like our State of Inequality Report on Child Immunization, are more relevant than ever.

Illustration Let's balance the scales

We are very excited about the upcoming Women on the Move report on migration, care work and health, to be launched this November. A global paradox is emerging in which care workers - who are largely female migrants - make a considerable contribution to global public health, but are exposed to health risks and have their rights violated themselves, while enjoying few protections. The report lays out next steps for consideration on these issues that echo the principles and priorities laid out in WHA Resolution 70.15 on migration and health. As the international community develops a series of ‘Global Compacts’ on refugees and migration, we hope this report will foster further debate on these issues.

Young girl in a consultation

As I wrote in my commentary with Jim Campbell, Director of the Health Workforce Department and Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the HIV Department, discrimination violates basic human rights and divides, disempowers and deprives people of their basic dignity. In late June, WHO and UNAIDS along with other United Nations agencies released a joint statement committing to work to support Member States in eliminating discrimination in health care settings. Determination, coordinated action and a holistic approach are necessary if we want to end discrimination!

Health continues to be high on the agenda of the Human Rights Council, and several resolutions were adopted at the 35th Session this past June:

  • The right to health in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda;
  • Child, early and forced marriage, including sexual and reproductive health, access to contraception, safe abortion services, comprehensive sexuality education, and gender equality;
  • Violence against women;
  • Discrimination against women;
  • The role of the family in supporting the protection and promotion of human rights of older persons

In addition, at the upcoming September session of the Council, WHO is joining a side event around the impact of armed conflicts on the right to health, building on the #NotATarget campaign recently launched for World Humanitarian Day, sponsored by the government of Switzerland.

In other news, WHO and authorities in the Dominican Republic recently held a workshop to introduce Innov8, the 8-step process to review health programmes to leave no one behind. The focus of the review was the national programme for the prevention of adolescent pregnancy. Later this month, WHO will launch updated fact sheets on gender, women’s health and the Sustainable Development Goals. Keep up-to-date on the latest from GER at WHO by visiting our website and following me on Twitter @VeronicaMagar.

Warm regards, Veronica