Gender, women and health

2009 Highlights

Accelerate progress in the implementation of the WHO Gender strategy and WHO resolution WHA60.25 in WHO and in countries

While the WHO Gender strategy focuses on gender analysis and actions in WHO's own work, resolution WHA60.25 calls on Member States to achieve gender equality in the health sector. The implementation of the strategy at Headquarters, in regions and countries and in all four strategic directions below is crucial for WHO to best serve its Member States.

Strategic direction 1: Building capacity for gender analysis and actions

GWHN trained health professionals from more than 40 countries, often in partnership, to ensure staff and Member States develop capacity to analyse the impact of gender on health outcomes, national health plans, policies and activities and design action to address the negative impacts.

For example, the Network convened more than 50 gender focal points from regional and country offices, ministries of health and programme managers from all six WHO regions at its third inter-regional capacity building seminar. Participants learned how to mainstream gender in health and develop plans to scale up regional and national gender mainstreaming efforts. The American Austrian Foundation supported the workshop, which was held in Austria, through a grant from the Open Society Institute.

Capacity building has led to policy developments at the national level. For example, in Uganda, gender and human rights were included in the national health plan. In Yemen it led to revisions to the national health plan. In Kyrgyzstan, a workshop was timed to support the review of the Manas taalimi, the Kyrgyz Republic National Health Sector Strategy. As a result of the workshop, strategic planning and other technical units in the Ministry of Health increased their commitment to better address gender-based health inequities across national health priorities.

All capacity building workshops used the user-friendly manual Gender mainstreaming for health managers: a practical approach, which will be published officially in 2010.

Furthermore, GWHN provided technical assistance in a concerted effort to selected WHO programmes such as food safety, HIV, malaria, tobacco and the workplace. The Network also provided technical assistance to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, UNAIDS and The Global Fund. In fact, GWHN trained representatives of dozens of countries in how to integrate gender into their Global Fund Round 9 proposals.

Strategic direction 2: Bringing gender into the mainstream of WHO's management

As achieving gender equality and health equity is a cross-cutting objective in WHO's work (see 11th General Programme of Work), gender actions should be integrated when country cooperation strategies, strategic objectives, the programme budget and workplans are drawn up.

Hence, WHO integrated a "gender classification" into WHO's Global Management System (GSM). The electronic system prompts WHO staff involved in the preparation of workplans to indicate if their products and services are gender responsive. This initiative helps increase accountability and track corporate progress on the implementation of the WHO Gender strategy. To help staff tick "yes, the project is gender-responsive", GWH conducted two workshops. The workshops were promoted on the WHO training web site and through distribution of advocacy tray mats at the WHO Restaurant.

GWHN is pleased that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has accepted a GSM-based gender indicator in the UK performance framework, i.e. the percentage of budget centres that have in their workplan at least one product or service classified as gender responsive.

Strategic direction 3: Promoting the use of sex-disaggregated data and gender analysis

What is measured gets done. WHO is strongly advocating the collection, analysis and use of sex-disaggregated health data for evidence-based policy-making.

Therefore, GWHN has been building capacity in countries. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), for example, convened a workshop in Quito, Ecuador to assist Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in the identification of gender and health core indicators. The workshop was attended by around 40 participants from ministries of health, gender and women, statistical bureaus and women's organizations involved in data collection and analysis. GWH provided inputs into the workshop methodology and, as co-facilitator, assisted participating countries in selecting core gender and health indicators for regional reporting.

Strategic direction 4: Establishing accountability

Accountability is essential to ensure that the WHO Gender strategy is fully implemented.

To track progress, GWHN conducted a baseline assessment and developed an implementation plan to address the gaps. The first step was to develop a monitoring and evaluation framework, including 16 indicators, to arrive at baseline values. The next step was to conduct interviews with workplan focal points from selected departments; analyse the content of key WHO publications, workplans and senior management speeches; and offer a survey to all staff. 2000 - a remarkable one in four - volunteered to participate.

In 2010, GWHN will conduct a mid-term review of the progress that will have been made since then.