Advancing Gender Equality is Improving Women and Girls’ Health in Bangladesh

| Jul 31, 2019 | « back

The fact is that millions of women and girls around the world are being denied their right to health. Is there anything we can do about it? Yes! We can help change the birth story by advancing gender equality.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is if we can accept that change is slow and takes a holistic approach. In Bangladesh, Plan International Canada is working with local governments, women and men, youth, community leaders and health workers to create an environment in which women and girls can access and exercise their right to health.

Youth

Meet Bithi. She’s 18 and has two older sisters. In 2016 she was chosen to be a peer educator with Plan International and trained to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights issues alongside other issues like child marriage that are relevant to youth in her community.

As a leader Bithi creates groups of 20 girls age 14-19, they meet monthly about an hour and a half and talk about things like gender roles, sex, family planning and more. Bithi has already led three different groups.  

Her favourite topic is about eliminating child marriage as she thinks it’s very important to teach the girls about the challenges with child marriage.  She sees the girls in her group becoming more confident and sharing what they have learned with other girls and family members.  The girls in her program are especially interested in gender equality and access to responsive health care services that cater specifically to the needs of women and girls.  

Now that Bithi’s parents have seen her lead groups, they realize she has good leadership skills and they give her more freedom and are proud of the positive impact she’s having in the community. Bithi has successfully stopped two child marriages! She, along with a community health worker, convinced the parents to let the girls stay in school and continue their education.

Bithi is the first in her family to go to college and wants to be a teacher in the future. Her goal for the youth groups she leads is to have child marriage eliminated from their community within the next year.

Parents

Nazma and Rafiq got married when they were 18. Nazma joined a Plan International facilitated women’s group a few years ago, and she’s learned about the importance of getting health check-ups, having antenatal visits, and ensuring proper nutrition for babies among other things.   

Nazma has seen changes in her community as more people utilize services  at health clinics including  family planning. Rafiq has also noticed significant changes between the birth of his two sons and the birth of their daughter. At the time of their first child’s birth, they didn’t know whether to go to a clinic or what to do/what not to do during the pregnancy.

Their sons were both born at home with a Dai a local community member with no formal training in handling child birth. But their youngest daughter was born at a health facility who advised them that Nazma needed a caesarian because of issues with previous deliveries and they complied.   

Nazma and Rafiq have a more equitable relationship now and share responsibilities in the household. Rafiq now shares the responsibility of household chores like cooking, carrying water, and taking care of the children with his wife. They also make financial decisions together.

In his community, Rafiq advocates about the importance of pregnant women and their husbands to jointly visit the clinic and Nazma is also passionate about sharing with community members, all the information she learns through the local women’s group.

“Beyond my dreams, I want to make my daughter a doctor.”

Health Workers

Joti has been a healthcare worker since 2011 – she received special training through a Plan International project one year ago. She attended workshops to improve her skills, learned about male involvement and teaching women the importance of visiting a health facility during pregnancy, delivery and for postnatal care. Joti also learned more about sexual and reproductive health and rights; this is information she shares with her patients. 

Joti has been a healthcare worker since 2011 – she received special training through a Plan International project one year ago. She attended workshops to improve her skills, learned about male involvement and teaching women the importance of visiting a health facility during pregnancy, delivery and for postnatal care. Joti also learned more about sexual and reproductive health and rights; this is information she shares with her patients. 

Because of our health project in Joti’s community, the clinic she works at has received upgrades that she’s very grateful for, including a private youth corner. She’s seen a change in the number of adolescents coming to the clinic to get information about their sexual and reproductive health, and Joti enjoys working with them.  

Joti has delivered 30-40 babies in the past year.

The biggest changes she has seen in the community are that women and adolescent girls are coming more often to the health facilities and their husbands are accompanying them to the clinic for birth.  

Her personal dream is to continue being a community healthcare worker and for her daughter to be a doctor one day.

Watch this video to see how we’re engaging men to improve access to healthcare for women and girls in Bangladesh.

Help #ChangetheBirthStory

As a result of our health project in Bangladesh:

  • More women and girls are accessing Union Health and Family Welfare centers and delivering healthy babies.
  • More adolescent girls are empowered and informed about their sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • More men and boys are becoming agents of change and support the advancement of gender equality.

Together, we can change the birth story and not only save lives but ensure they are healthy and thriving!

Add your name below to support a continued investment by Government of Canada in transformative programming that improves access to life-saving healthcare and furthers gender equality.

I stand with Canada to change the birth story because I believe that every adolescent girl, woman and child has the right to be healthy and to live a life free of discrimination.

Kavita Dogra | 3 weeks ago | « back