Gender, women and health

Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all

Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all
International Women's Day - 8 March 2010

The theme for International Women's Day this year: "Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all" re-emphasizes that equal rights and opportunities lead to improved health outcomes for women and girls.

Discrimination towards women and girls, or what is known as gender-based discrimination, is one of the most pervasive human rights violations. It severely limits the ability of women, girls and the communities they live in to protect and promote their health.

  • The health of women and girls needs legal and political actions such as the CEDAW.
  • Gender-based discrimination limits the attainment of international health and development goals such as the MDGs.
  • Health inequalities are the result of systemic failures to realize the right to health for all.

The way forward: equal rights and equal opportunities for women and girls NOW

Gender-based discrimination is irrevocably connected to negative health outcomes for women and girls. Its associated poor health outcomes are often compounded by other forms of inequality related to socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or geographical location. While these challenges are imposing, and often encoded in "normalized" ways of living, International Women's Day renews our commitment to denounce violations in human rights and to challenge unequal systems, structures and practices that perpetuate health inequalities across the world.

Gender equality is good for health.

The obstacles that stand in the way of better health for women are not primarily technical or medical in nature. They are social and political, and the two go together.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization, Launch of the report Women and health: today's evidence tomorrow's agenda, November 2009