HealthBridge works with partners world-wide to improve health and health equity through research, policy and action.

Gender Equality, Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn & Child Health

Reproductive health is an important component of the health and wellbeing of women, families, and communities. Health during the reproductive years has an impact on the lifelong health of women, including during pregnancy, which subsequently affects the health of infants and children.

In many parts of the world, women and men suffer from largely preventable reproductive health issues that have lifelong consequences. Mothers and newborns still die needlessly during pregnancy and childbirth.

Both men and women need access to health services and information, as well as adequate nutrition to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH).

RMNCH cannot be addressed in isolation from gender. Gender inequality shapes the division of labour and power dynamics in relationships between men and women in families and society. In many parts of the world, women have poorer access to formal education and economic opportunities than men. Gender inequality denies women opportunities that would empower them to improve their own and their families’ health.

Meanwhile, reproductive health is largely viewed as a women’s issue. Men receive minimal information and education about reproductive health. Men can have a positive influence on maternal and child health when they receive the right information, take care of their own reproductive health, and provide emotional and practical support to their partners and families. They can play an important role in changing attitudes that restrict women’s access to health services and economic opportunities, and in reducing violence against women.

Goal

The goal of the program is to improve gender equality and reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH).  

What we do

We work with local groups and governments in low and middle-income countries to:     

  • Strengthen policies that protect RMNCH and promote gender equality among vulnerable groups;
  • Engage men in RMNCH;
  • Increase access to essential health services among hard to reach groups.

Impact

Engaging men to promote maternal and child health

Our partners are using innovative approaches to engage men in maternal and child health. Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) produced a series of short video clips on maternal and child health in Vietnam. Village Health Workers use these video clips during group meetings and home visits with men and fathers. The videos use local languages and feature local ethnic minority peoples who face additional barriers receiving health information and services. The videos have been positively received, and are being used by local unions, television stations and other national organizations to reach ethnic minority communities.

In Nepal, International Nepal Fellowship (INF) is engaging men in maternal health through using street dramas. The street dramas provide entertainment while challenging attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality. The street dramas raise awareness about issues such as how child and early marriage and gender discrimination influence maternal health, the benefits of family planning, and the importance of proper nutrition during and after pregnancy. The dramas attract large audiences, including men, and are an effective tool for engaging men in supporting maternal health from an early age. 

Strengthening government health service delivery in Pakur, India

The infant and maternal mortality rates in Pakur District, India are very high. There are significant barriers that prevent mothers and children from accessing health services in the area. These barriers include a lack of health services that are gender-sensitive and a lack of shared decision-making at home about seeking health services.

The Pakur mother and child survival project addressed some of the root causes of these infant and maternal mortality rates. Together with our partner, we created Saas Bahu Patti Samelan community groups to educate community members, empower women to seek maternal health services, and raise awareness within families of the importance of seeking these services.

Over the course of the project, local authorities noted the effectiveness and success of the community groups. The government then adopted this community-centred and gender-sensitive approach to strengthen the delivery of health services. The government integrated this approach into the health system by training health providers, thus extending the reach far beyond the direct project beneficiaries.

Recognizing the contribution of women’s unpaid work

Women around the world are responsible for caregiving and household work that is not paid. At the same time, society does not recognize the important contribution of women’s unpaid work. This leads to the systematic undervaluing of women, and contributes to women’s low status in many parts of the world.

HealthBridge believes that recognizing the contribution of women’s unpaid work is an important step to valuing women and reducing gender inequality. HealthBridge worked with local organizations in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam to study the economic value of women’s unpaid household work. The results of this groundbreaking research revealed the vital role women play in society, and shed light on the factors that lead to gender inequality. The research also made clear why valuing women benefits society as a whole. 

This research led to change in India and Vietnam. The High Court in India decided to compensate the household work of women who are victims of motor vehicle collisions. In Vietnam, the government changed legislation to protect the rights of domestic workers, who are often women migrants in vulnerable situations.