Improving Women's Living Conditions: An Emergency for Women's Access to Adequate Health Care


Author: Communication Unit of the Network of Women Leaders for Development (RFLD)

RFLD is a sub-Saharan African organization with expertise in working with state actors, media, and civil society organizations. We intervene through advocacy, policy development, training, gender mainstreaming and promoting civic space, women's rights, climate justice, and women's economic rights.


In Africa in general and West Africa in particular, all vital needs are still far from being guaranteed. There are several reasons for this state of affairs: limited access to basic necessities, archaic infrastructure, almost inaccessible drinking water, unreliable waste and wastewater treatment policies, and the list goes on. Speaking of clean water and women's access to quality health care, this is a long-standing challenge. Global health statistics disaggregated by gender explain this finding. Behind every number in these health statistics is a community, an individual, a family, or a country. Our task in this development will be to look at this data to make evidence-based policy analyses that will lead to a healthier, safer, and more just world for women.


Women face the challenge of a disadvantageous health status
Of the millions of women in every African country today, few enjoy full general health and well-being. In many countries, they face unequal access to basic medical care throughout their life experience. Girls often receive less attention than boys in terms of treatment and prevention of childhood diseases. From adolescence through their reproductive years, women do not have the opportunity to access adequate gynecological and reproductive health care services or counseling. As a result, they are increasingly vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, unwanted and early pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and complications related to pregnancy or termination. The gap in life expectancy between women and men is smallest when women do not have access to quality health services. In low-income countries, where health care is more scarce, 1 in 41 women die from maternal causes, while in high-income countries only 1 in 3,300 women die. In almost all low-income countries, there are fewer than 4 nurses or obstetricians per 1,000 population. In this condition, attitudes toward health care differ. Indeed, when faced with the same disease, men are often found to use health care services less than women. Yet the right of girls and women to the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health was recognized at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Indeed, at that conference, and within the twelve critical areas of concern identified in the program that require the attention of the international community, particular emphasis was placed on the urgent need to ensure universal access to appropriate and quality health care and services for all women and girls. Proposals were made to improve women's health and for a gender perspective to be taken into account as a central element in all the countries' health policies and programs.


Does improving the health status of women require the fight against stereotypes?

Beyond all that can be blamed on modern society, women, for their part, are not necessarily aware that they can, at times, evaluate themselves and realize their full potential. However, due to a lack of conviction and self-confidence, they end up accepting certain distorted realities that society has inculcated in them for years as being truths or even norms. In essence, stereotypes are anchored in them and they no longer perceive them as dangers to their development, better yet, they seem natural to them. Natural, for example, that the best care is for urban populations rather than rural ones. This is also what makes it difficult to fight against these caricatured representations that tarnish their image and force them to settle for a low level of sexual and reproductive health, leaving them to the mercy of diseases and harmful practices of all kinds such as genital mutilation, sexual, physical and psychological violence. Most women's deaths are preventable. These accidents that occur during childbirth are the result of the fact that women do not have equal access to health care and, more importantly, to obstetric care, which can save their lives. Therefore, for behavioral change, it is important that actions be taken to change women's attitudes towards themselves. Since it has been proven that the same causes always produce the same effects, any attempt to correct this health injustice cannot be successful until the thought systems of the victims (in this case, women) are reversed. Therefore, if the relationship between the causes of death for men and women is to change, it must begin with environmental and societal factors before we can talk about the availability of health services and their use, which are also factors to be addressed.



To protect, promote and improve the health of girls and women of all ages, specific actions are needed.

  • Pay particular attention to the needs of girls by taking specific measures to address gender disparities and inequalities in mortality rates where girls are disadvantaged
  • Ensure that girls are more aware of health and nutrition services.
  • Honor regional and international commitments to protect the health needs of girls and women of all ages.
  • Multiply the work with women's groups to not only rethink the most gender-sensitive health systems, but also to work to ensure that women take ownership of and enjoy their rights as women. Hence the need to initiate training and information sessions on professional standards, ethical codes and drug procurement processes

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