Gender bending global health

Published: June 5, 2013

Hands up, who thinks of women when someone mentions gender? Be honest now. You do? Well, guess what, you’re not alone. According to a couple of researchers writing in the Lancet today, many of the leading global health institutions do too. Worse, some don’t have much of a clue about gender at all. Here’s how Hawkes and Buse summarise their findings: “Gender is missing from, misunderstood in, and only sometimes mainstreamed into global health policies and programmes”. Ouch!
That there’s a blind spot in global health policy when it comes to men and gender surprised me, and the authors’ analysis  of the 2010 Global Burden of Disease dataset (which was published in the Lancet last year) is frankly shocking: for each of the top 10 contributors to DALYs (see the table below) and the top 10 risk factors for ill health men fare worse than women. When it comes to mortality, men get some respite – faring worse than women in just 8 of 10 causes of death globally.

So, which global health institutions are gender-savvy, and which ones couldn’t tell a ladyboy from a ladybird?
Searching the health strategies from each selected agency, the authors found that the World Bank, WHO, ILO and the People’s Health Movement were top of the class, understanding that gender concerned “both men and women, and the relationship between them” and were committed to gender mainstreaming. In the ‘could-do-better’ category they found that the Global Fund, USAID, the US Global Health Initiative, and UK DFID understood gender primarily as a way to empower women and girls.
But who needed to stay behind after class? Surprisingly, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – which had no provision for gender in any of its strategy documents. And, finally, only two organisations – the Global Fund and USAID – had a clue about transgender health issues. All of this may be news to you but not to the authors:
 “The absence of gender mainstreaming in these organisations is not unexpected, since the approach is not part of current discourse on development goals.”

Full text of article available at link below –

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