May 28th is globally recognized as International Day of Action for Women’s Health to advance the cause of women’s right to life, health and gender equality.
For over 30 years sexual and reproductive health rights movement have championed the campaign. Year 2021 focuses on reminding everyone, especially Government leaders and Parliamentarian (Legislators) that every woman’s health matters with the theme tagged ‘Call for Action’ -SRHRM.
There has been series of recurring and reported cases of sexual abuse – rape, child molestation, domestic violence and reproductive health violations amidst several calls for action against such acts.
It is on this premise the Media team of UPTH held interactions with professional women stakeholders in the health sector, to field their views on the rights of women as regards their health.
A Professor of maternal health and Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rosemary Ogu made submissions to the fact that the Call for Action should be directed at Governments, the Media and women themselves.
Prof. Ogu explained that a woman is called a woman “at the point where puberty sets in, up to the point where she reaches menopause and as such the reproductive health of a woman is the complete physical, mental, social wellbeing not just the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The rights of women are consistently infringed upon and this is an age long problem emanating from the customs and systems in our society. Prof. Ogu expressed concern that women are hardly represented in places or forums where actions and policies are formulated. This, she said is “the big challenge.”
All of this drives home the call for the domestication of the 35% women affirmation for appointment and electable positions–for considerable representation and gender equality in our public institutions and organizations.
Women empowerment and education is very critical in ensuring that we get the best for the larger society. This is because women bear, rear and care. So if a woman is given the best, it will be better for the society.
Accordingly, the media should ensure publicity and sensitization is given towards women’s right to sexual and reproductive health. Women should also be encouraged to take part in enlightenment programs, commit to their education and career development. More so, women are urged to avail themselves of specialized care in the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology UPTH.
Specialized care ranging from antenatal, maternal health, family planning, ln-vitro-fertilization (IVF), planning the sex of babies, cervical screening and management and a whole range of gynaecological care. The UPTH O&G department currently has in her theatre facility a Laparoscopy Machine that undertakes what is called ‘pin-hole surgery ‘ to render appropriate gynaecological surgery with minute incision.
Corroborating the position earlier made by Prof. Ogu, a consultant Physiotherapist specialized in spine injury and women’s health, Dr. Blessing N. Jonathan, said the call for the adaptation of the VAPPS Act 2015 across the country is important to guard against the violation of women’s right.
She frowned at the continual practice of the dehumanization of widows as engendered by some traditions, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and forced transactional sexual abuse.
Violations of the reproductive health of women is such that women cannot decide when or not to continue reproduction of babies. “A woman has the right to say I do not want to be pregnant. Imagine a setting where a woman has given birth to four girls, and she is still under pressure to produce a male child. The inequality begins from there. A pregnant teenage girl has the right to continue her education like the male counterpart who is responsible for the pregnancy “.
Advocacy is also needed to ensure sanitary pads for our young girls are free or made less expensive to encourage hygiene and health for the girl-child–just like condoms are made free and cheap to access.
For Dr. Jonathan, the Call for Action for women’s health “is the totality of a woman and everything that makes her a person, physically, emotionally, sexually and everybody should pay attention to it because a woman is encompassing.”
A Senior Registrar of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr. Elaine Ajoku, on her part, said the COVID-19 Pandemic brought about significant disruptions to women’s access to health care especially in poor and developing countries. However, the good thing is the awakening on the use of social media platforms. “Women and young girls can go on solidarity teachings offline and online, on zoom webinars to hosting virtual meetings. They can also create hash tags and tag accounts to create awareness to Call for Action. Dr Ajoku also stated that the girl child needs to be properly oriented on body autonomy, to keep them safe from domestic violence, and women should break the silence.
A woman has the right to life, health, and to be free from coercion. This is the Call to Action – the theme for 2021 International Day of Action for Women’s Health.