By Hassan Zaggi
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has disclosed that 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.
The WHO Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, stated this in her message on the celebration of the International Women’s Day.
Her message was read by the Acting Officer- In- Charge, (WHO) Nigeria, Dr Fiona Braka, in Abuja.
The WHO Regional Director further called on member countries to confront what she described as: “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 further noted that: “As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I urge the international community, our Member States and all other stakeholders to “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”.
She reaffirmed the commitment of the WHO to gender equality and women empowerment, stressing: “Let us all “think equal, build smart, innovate for change” to improve health outcomes for women and girls so they can realize their potential and contribute to transformative socioeconomic and political development in the Africa region.”
While responding to questions from journalists in Abuja, the Acting Officer- In- Charge, (WHO) Nigeria, Dr Fiona Braka, noted that WHO in Nigeria “is working to ensure that we do everything gender sensitively.
“There is no programme within our office where you implement without having gender analysis and we are guided by the gender policy of the organization.
“It is this gender policy that is giving us the opportunity to shape the country’s gender policy. “
Dr. Braka stressed that in an effort to improve the lives of women in Nigeria, the WHO has supported governments at different levels to build capacity down to the community level.
“We build capacity because we want to empower the rural women to be able to have sound information to make their own decision.
“This is because if a woman does not have information, she will not be able to make the decision she needs to make. That is what we have been able to achieve within WHO and we work with federal and states ministries of health down to the local governments as well as the communities.