Georgia Taylor’s work on the “Midwives’ Voices, Midwives’ Realities” report for WHO cited in statement to the 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women 2017.
I am so pleased to see a focus on women’s economic empowerment within the health sector in the WHO statement at the Commission on the Status of Women 2017. In particular it was great to see the report that Sheena Crawford and I worked on for WHO cited in the statement. “WHO led the “Midwives Voices, Midwives Realities” 2016 Report which documented the experiences of several thousand midwifery personnel in 93 countries, revealing how hierarchies of power, gender discrimination and harassment hinder the provision of quality care for women and newborns.”
This report shows how gender inequality in the workplace and the time poverty resulting from unpaid care responsibilities is undermining women’s ability to provide quality of care in hospitals, in health facilities and in communities. Midwives and nurses need to be respected within the health hierarchy for the specialist care that they provide and should play a full decision making role in health facilities. There is also a need for social norms in the home to change so that female health personnel have shared responsibility for care and household tasks, and therefore more time and energy for their paid work.
The WHO statement also highlights the importance of health care for women who aim to earn a decent income. Access to sexual and reproductive health services, prevention of violence and good nutrition are essential for women to be healthy and able to fully participate in work and enterprise. Market initiatives can only go so far in supporting women in this respect, and public investment is very much needed.
It is heartening to see a WHO commitment to gender equality within their own workplace and among WHO personnel – through their new Policy on Gender Equality in Staffing. This is an important starting point for ensure gender equality in all of their programmes. Their next challenge will be to implement and monitor this policy to ensure working practice is consistent with policy and overall development aims. It would be great to see all multilateral and bilateral organisations take similar steps to ensure coherence on gender equality.