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Online Discussions @ WomenWatch

Women and Health
(including Reproductive Health, AIDS and Human Rights)

10 November - 24 December 2004
10 - 21 January 2005

Moderated by WHO, UNFPA and UNAIDS


Section C of the Beijing Platform for Action states five strategic objectives for Women and Health

  1. Increase women's access throughout the life cycle to appropriate, affordable and quality health care, information and related services;
  2. Strengthen preventive programmes that promote women's health;
  3. Undertake gender-sensitive initiatives that address sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health issues;
  4. Promote research and disseminate information on women's health;
  5. Increase resources and monitor follow-up for women's health.

The Platform for Action highlighted the need to ensure universal access to appropriate, affordable and quality health care and services for women and girls as one of the 12 critical areas of concern requiring urgent attention by governments and the international community.

During its forty-third session in 1999, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women proposed further action to be included. These were the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all policies and programmes in the health sector, recommendations on women and infectious diseases, mental health, occupational and environmental health - areas that had received little attention at the Beijing Conference.

In 2000, a review of the implementation of the Platform for Action was undertaken by the 23rd special session of the General Assembly. The aspects highlighted in its outcome report for women and health could be briefly stated as follows:

Women's lack of equal access to primary health care and, specifically, life-saving obstetric care continues to kill a woman every minute from childbirth complications. However, since the Beijing Conference, states and international organizations have reported an increase in the number of assisted childbirths and in the training offered to doctors and birth attendants. Though the knowledge about modern contraceptive methods is increasing, the gap between availability and usage remains high. Cultural beliefs and taboos, insufficient knowledge about their bodies and inability to negotiate contraceptive use with partners expose women to the dual risk of unintended pregnancies and STIs/HIV more than ever before. Young, poor, rural, and uneducated women remain the most vulnerable. Unsafe abortions and legislation around abortion continue to prevent woman from the human right of choosing not to be a mother without jeopardizing her health. There is now increased attention to sexual and reproductive rights of women. Malnutrition, often caused by gender discrimination in food distribution, presents a grave threat to the health of women and girls. Anaemia and Iodine deficiencies top the list. HIV, Malaria and TB continue to be the major killers. In some countries, increased female life expectancy and changes of life style, certain non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, have become more common, in particular among older women. Poverty, domestic isolation, overwork, powerlessness resulting from low levels of education and economic dependence, and violence in all its forms have an impact on the mental health and general well-being of the majority of women. Greater involvement of men in areas of women's health is increasingly important. Ways of mainstreaming gender perspectives into health policies and health services remains one of the major challenges.

See also: Summary of Achievements and Challenges after Beijing and Beijing+5.

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