Gender, equity and human rights

Making a difference: vision, goals and strategy

Health outcomes are not equal for people throughout the world, both across and within countries. Many of these disparities — due to underlying social determinants — are avoidable and unacceptable. The Gender, Equity and Human Rights team works to address these disparities (caused by gender inequalities, inequities and lack of human rights-based approaches) to ensure better health for all.

Strategic directions of the GER roadmap

  • Guidance and capacity building
  • Health inequality monitoring
  • Innov8 approach for reviewing national health programmes to leave no one behind

1. Guidance and capacity building

GER Seal

While all staff aim to promote gender, equity and human rights integration of WHO values and approaches, the Gender, Equity and Rights team provides specific guidance on sustainable integration of all three in WHO programme areas and institutional mechanisms.
We coordinate efforts at headquarters as well as regional and country offices to transform attitudes that speak to three efforts:

  • Increase awareness of the mandates in WHO to mainstream gender, equity and human rights;
  • Strengthen basic understanding of the core concepts of gender, equity and human rights; and
  • Recommend minimum actions for integrating gender, equity and human rights in WHO programme areas

The Gender, Equity and Human Rights team works within the Organization to provide guidance on the integration of gender-responsive and sustainable approaches which advance health equity, promote and respect human rights and address social determinants into WHO programmes and institutional mechanisms. Such training allows WHO staff to consider gender, equity and human rights every step of the way in how they think, plan and operate.

Several advances have been achieved, particularly in key WHO corporate processes, as specific guidelines for integrating gender, equity and human rights are now reflected in the WHO Country Cooperation Strategy and chapter 5 of the WHO Handbook for Guideline Development. In addition, the Organization has made great strides in meeting and exceeding requirements on performance indicators detailed in the United Nations System-wide Action Plan towards gender quality and the empowerment of women. In 2016, WHO significantly improved its UN-SWAP performance, with 80% of the Performance Indicators either “Meeting” or “Exceeding Requirements” compared to 60% in 2015 and 53% in 2014.

In addition, WHO supports the International Geneva Gender Champions, an initiative, led by the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Permanent Mission of the United States, which brings together female and male decision-makers to break down gender barriers.

As an International Geneva Gender Champion, WHO’s Director-General Dr Margaret Chan has signed the Geneva Parity Pledge, in addition to taking on the following two measurable and accountable commitments to further the principles of this commitment.

  • By September 2016, the foundation module of the WHO gender, equity and human rights e-learning series on mainstreaming competencies will be completed by 80% of new staff at headquarters, and 90% of global staff of the Gender, Equity and Human Rights Team will have completed the whole series of seven modules.
  • By September 2017, the number of WHO female staff in the professional and higher categories is to be increased by 3% from 42% in 2015 to 45% in 2017, with a focus on increasing the number of women at the P5 level and above.

2. Monitoring inequalities in health


3. Innov8 approach for reviewing national health programmes to leave no one behind

Innov8 eight steps graph

The Innov8 Approach for Reviewing National Health Programmes to Leave No One Behind is a resource that supports the operationalization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the progressive realization of universal health coverage and the right to health.

It does this by identifying ways to make concrete, meaningful and evidence-based programmatic action to “leave no one behind” in health programmes. The Innov8 review process results in recommendations for specific entry points and actions to make the health programme more equity-oriented, rights-based and gender responsive, while addressing critical social determinants of health influencing programme effectiveness and outcomes. Innov8 it best applied in synergy with a national health programme’s planning and review cycle.

The Innov8 approach has been applied to different national and sub-national health programmes, strategies and activities, including reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health; noncommunicable diseases (NCDs); communicable diseases; and environmental health and health promotion programmes, among others.