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May 28, 2015

Should we only give attention to women’s health on International day of action?

Sanjeeta Gawri

For the next 15 years, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will develop a broad narrative on women’s health. The photo is for representative purpose only.

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May 28--International Day of Action for Women’s health. @OxfamIndia is working on this issues in six states. Know more http://bit.ly/1eznO9G

@OxfamIndia is working in six states to address critical health issues of women. Know more  http://bit.ly/1eznO9G

Amidst the euphoria of the Modi government completing a year, we must not forget the importance of May 28, 2015 -- the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. This day is of importance both for women’s rights advocates across the world as well as building a movement on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). 

The International Day of Action for Women’s Health was first launched in 1987 to mobilise voices on issues and challenges faced by women worldwide, in relation to empowerment and SRHR. 

International organisations like the UN, international agencies, various governments and numerous civil societies have since recognized and adopted it. This day serves as a platform to call for action and active engagement at community, organization, national and international level in promoting a holistic understanding of women’s health. It is a commemoration for everyone who cares for women’s health and understands that a holistic approach is critical. 

Oxfam India views maternal health from the lens of human rights and addresses the issue comprehensively. For the last three years, through a programme in six states, Oxfam India has worked on building awareness among the communities on critical health issues such as:

  • Access to contraceptives
  • Accessibility of quality public health services
  • Right to safe and legal abortion
  • Right to food and nutrition
  • Right to dignified child birth
  • Ending child marriage 
  • Setting up accountability structure at service providers’ level. 

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set from 2000-2015 developed a limited and narrow understanding of women’s health in the context of maternal health; it ignored human rights and comprehensive SRHR. 

Post 2015, and now with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) taking shape, which will guide international development policies, priorities, and funding over the next 15 years, it gives an opportunity to move away from a narrow focus on maternal health towards developing a broad narrative on women’s health. 

This year the International Day of Action for Women’s Health calls for the government, international community and grassroots organisations to join hands together to end violence against women. 

It highlights the link between sexual and reproductive health rights and institutional violence. While there is a global acceptance of violence against women as human rights violations, institutional violence, though rampant, remains unaddressed. Women and girls are exposed to multiple vulnerabilities due to the denial of right to health and access to sexual and reproductive health services. 

While working on improving maternal health, Oxfam India witnessed several forms of institutional violence during its field visits. Most common were obstetric violence during pregnancy along with verbal humiliation, denial of treatment during childbirth, physical violence, disregard of a woman’s needs and pain, detention in absence of payment, which in many cases led to the death of the woman. 

Second form of institutional violence that we came across was, forced sterilization; 17 women in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh died due to forced, unsafe sterilization in November 2014. Third was the denial of right to safe and legal abortion services and/or criminalisation of abortion services and the fourth was denial of access to contraceptives and emergency contraception. 

 

Written By: Sanjeeta Gawri, Programme Officer, Essential Services, Oxfam India

Photo Credit: Oxfam India

Source: www.may28.org  

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