On June 29th, Women Political Leaders (WPL) brought together multidisciplinary experts to explore women’s health inequalities throughout their life-course. The discussions analysed insights from experts and examined the best policies and practices that have been adopted to tackle the challenges and disparities faced by women. Moderated by Dr. Njoki Ngumi, Writer of She Decides and Member of the Nest Collective, the digital conversation saw the participation of four health professionals:
- John Beard, Professor, ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), University of New South Wales; Director of Ageing and Life Course, World Health Organization (2009-2019)
- Mariana de la Roche, Managing Partner, Operations and Compliance, Madami
- Melissa Gong Mitchell, Executive Director, Global Coalition on Aging
- Xavier Prats Monné, Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, Open University of Catalonia; Director-General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission (2015-2018)
Raising awareness on the unmet needs of women throughout all walks of life, the roundtable called for community leadership to play an active role in the provision of women’s health services and education. “Decisions about women must be made more and more by women, and for women, and evaluated by women,” says Dr. Njoki Ngumi, highlighting the importance of new policies that are best suited for the good and the ultimate health of the public.
By facilitating access to quality information, communities can empower women and girls with their own health. “I think that the real support the community can provide is in terms of training women, in terms of taking more of the caregiving responsibility and also looking at ways to ensure that older women can actively remain participants of their community and continue to contribute, and can continue to live life of meaning and dignity,” says John Beard.
Citing menstrual health as the entry point to women’s health, Mariana de la Roche uplifts the need for quality health education, “Starting with empowering girls to have control over their own bodies is the first step for them to have more agency across their life course.”
Recognising the structures and health systems that disproportionately affect women, Melissa Gong Mitchell recommends a focus that effectively addresses gender equity and age equity, stating, “We know that 60% of working caregivers, mostly women, say they leave work early to come in late, they turn down promotions or leave the job to care for loved ones. And we saw these decisions being made too often during the Covid-19 pandemic and this will have a really great impact economically overall. Employers really have an important role to step up to this new normal.”
Adding to the call for restructured healthcare systems, “We need to be developing much more comprehensive systems of long term care that are applicable in low-income countries where women regardless of their health circumstances towards the end of their life can experience a life of meaning and dignity,” says Xavier Prats Monné.
The dialogue supports the efforts of WPL and UCB to develop the WPL Policy Toolkit – Women’s health through their life-course. The toolkit provides leaders with policy actions that prioritise women’s health from birth to their later years, ensuring that health care systems have the capacity to provide equitable and integrated health services.