Social determinants of health

Women and gender equity

Nutrition and street food in Vietnam.
WHO /Matthew Dakin

Gender inequality damages the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women across the globe, and also of boys and men despite the many tangible benefits it gives men through resources, power, authority and control. Because of the numbers of people involved and the magnitude of the problems, taking action to improve gender equity in health and to address women’s rights to health is one of the most direct and potent ways to reduce health inequities and ensure effective use of health resources. Deepening and consistently implementing human rights instruments can be a powerful mechanism to motivate and mobilize governments, people and especially women themselves.

The Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network focused on mechanisms, processes and actions that can be taken to reduce gender-based inequities in health by examining the following five areas:

  • Factors affecting social stratification and how to improve women's status relative to men.
  • Differential exposures to health-damaging factors.
  • Differential vulnerabilities leading to inequitable health outcomes.
  • Differential economical and social consequences of illness and reproductive health needs.
  • Engendering health systems and health research.

Organizational co-hubs:

The Karolinska Institute, Sweden, and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India, were the co-hubs for Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network, World Health Organization. Co-hub leaders were Piroska Ostlin and Gita Sen.

Key publications

Final report of the Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network - Unequal, unfair, ineffective and inefficient. Gender inequity in health: why it exists and how we can change it

The final report of the WGEKN identifies three sets of actions: (A) creating formal agreements, codes and laws to change norms that violate women’s human rights, and then implementing them; (B) adopting multi-level strategies to change norms including supporting women’s organisations; (C) working with boys and men to transform masculinist values and behaviour that harm women’s health and their own.

Gender inequity in health: why it exists and how we can change it

The Women and Gender Knowledge Network additionally edited a theme issue of the journal Global Public Health with short versions of the commissioned papers mentioned before. They are for open access and can be found here.

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