International Women’s Day: Africa needs to invest more to ensure gender balance – WHO

International Women's Day Celebration
International Women's Day Celebration

The World Health Organisation has commended the efforts of some Africans countries to resolve gender disparity in the continent but said all must do more.

The Africa Regional Director, WHO, Matshidiso Moeti, gave the commendation at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday in commemoration of the International Women’s Day.

The event is marked every March 8 to advance the cause of women all over the world.

The theme of this year’s IWD is “Think Equal, Build Smart, and Innovate for Change.”

Ms Moeti said many countries in Africa have taken giant strides towards gender parity in education, health, economic and political system.

She said these countries have incorporated multisectoral actions for advancing women’s health through the life course in their national health development strategies.

She reaffirmed WHO commitment to gender equality and women empowerment.

“Let us all ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’ to improve health outcomes for women and girls so they can realise their potential and contribute to transformative socioeconomic and political development in the Africa region.

“The theme of this year is a clarion call to all of us that rapid economic and transformational development will only be achieved by addressing and resolving the gender-based differences relating to health needs, risk behaviours, power and control over resources and information, and access to health services,” she said.

Ms Moeti said though gender advances have been made on the continent, countries need not relent because most of the positive developments are being masked by the fact that the region’s gender gap has started to widen again.

This, she said, is due to significant inter-country variations in educational attainment, political empowerment, wage equality and the numbers of women engaged in professional and technical work.

“African women are increasingly occupying positions of power and influencing bolder legislation and policy-making and demonstrating to other women that they too have a voice and can make decisions on issues impacting their lives.

“Rwanda has the largest proportion of female parliamentarians in the world (61 per cent), and together with Ethiopia, has near-parity in ministerial positions; in Namibia, the proportion of women in parliament stands at about 46 per cent.

“Deep-seated gender, equity and rights issues are responsible for the persistently high number of HIV-related deaths, especially among young women, as well as unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and other harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.

“We must also confront lifestyle issues and risk factors contributing to the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases among women in Africa; ensure that girls remain in school until the completion of their secondary education, and end all forms of violence against women and girls,” she said.

Also in commemoration of the day, the UN World Food Programme in a press statement said putting women and girls in the front and centre of policy decisions and programmes to tackle hunger and poverty is vital for reaching the goal of a Zero Hunger world by 2030.

The international organisation said reducing inequalities and removing barriers that exclude women from influencing development in all sectors advances food security.

WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, said the IWD was reminding people of the immense and valuable contribution women make towards a more peaceful, prosperous and well-fed world.

“All around the globe, WFP programmes help to empower women so they can have more opportunities to not just improve their lives, but those of their families, communities and nations.”

He said gender continues to be a critical component of their work as WFP is constantly challenging the status quo and working to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment through its programmes.

“School feeding programmes have demonstrated an increase in nutrition and education among girl students and contributed to a decrease in teen pregnancy and child marriage.

“Our Food for Assets projects have empowered women who now are able to work in their communities, feed their families, sell their produce and contribute towards the development of themselves and their families,” he said.

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