Ugandan Women’s Health as a form of empowerment

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It has been argued by various scholars that women empowerment is important and crucial for human development. Empowerment is a concept that can be perceived through various dimensions including health whether it is when addressing issues of access to sexual and reproductive health services, maternal health, domestic violence and even teenage pregnancy. Yet, the question remains: why address Ugandan women’s health as a form of empowerment or development? Among many other reasons, addressing Ugandan women’s health as a form of empowerment would imply bringing to the forefront their wellbeing and the various health challenges they face on a daily basis.

Empowerment is often discussed as a means to economic ends. Although, an economic lens is important, income is not always the end to its means. It should be understood and analyzed in conjunction with other components including health. The former should not exclude the latter. Indeed, empowering Ugandan women by improving their health implies investing in their social and economic wellbeing, which translates into more than physical but also mental and social health.

In Uganda, 49% of the population lives within 5 km of a health care facility. However, geographical access to health facilities does not portray the actual services delivered[i]. Current inequalities within Uganda’s health care systems hinders women’s health. For instance, there is a deficit in the provision of maternity services[ii]. 33% of health facilities in Uganda fail to provide maternity services and others lack proper equipment to provide general anaesthesia[iii]. In rural areas, only 36% of women deliver in a health facility compared to 79% in urban areas[iv]. Moreover, just as in many other countries, Ugandan women who are part of the highest quintile of the social stratification are 3 times more likely to have access to health facilities than others and so are women with higher education[v].

The aforementioned statements, illustrate how both health care systems and low social determinants of health hinders Ugandan women’s health improvement. That is why allowing women at various levels of society and geographical region to access proper health facilities would provide them with better choices to have healthier lives. In turn, Ugandan women would have greater opportunities of enhancing their human capital[vi]. The unequal social stratification within Uganda’s health sector also demonstrates that there is a need to empower Ugandan women’s health from the grassroots and while including every other levels of society by reaching out and supporting them as they experience their health challenges. Nevertheless, to do so, one needs to consider their environment, age and the diversity of socio-economic and political determinants of health that influence their overall wellbeing.

 

La Rissa Ituze,

Intern Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy, WOUGNET

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

[i]Ssengooba, Freddie, Neema, Stella, Mbonye Anthony, Sentubwe Olive and Onama, Virigil. Health Systems Development Programme: Maternal Health Review Uganda. Published by Makerere University Institute of Public Health. Health Systems Development Programme.

[ii] Ssengooba, Freddie, Neema, Stella, Mbonye Anthony, Sentubwe Olive and Onama, Virigil. Health Systems Development Programme: Maternal Health Review Uganda. Published by Makerere University Institute of Public Health. Health Systems Development Programme.

[iii] Ssengooba, Freddie, Neema, Stella, Mbonye Anthony, Sentubwe Olive and Onama, Virigil. Health Systems Development Programme: Maternal Health Review Uganda. Published by Makerere University Institute of Public Health. Health Systems Development Programme.

[iv] Inter-parliamentary Union. Parliament of Uganda and Maternal and The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health. Maternal and Child Health: Uganda.

[v] Inter-parliamentary Union. Parliament of Uganda and Maternal and The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health. Maternal and Child Health: Uganda.

[vi] UNICEF. United Nations in Uganda Supports Efforts to Empower Grassroots Girls and Women in Uganda. (2013).