Celebrating Women’s Month is not just about creative greetings and colorful banners. It is also about putting in the effort to address the issues and concerns of women at all levels—from our individual actions, community efforts, all the way to institutional interventions.
Through the years, we have made considerable progress towards gender equality and women empowerment. We recognize more and more that women have an important voice, an essential role, and an undeniable impact in bringing about change in our communities.
We have seen how women can become agents of change when they get the right opportunities and support. However, recent crises such as COVID-19 have shaken up this progress. As the pandemic placed the health and well-being of women at risk, it also heightened the barriers they face against social, political, and financial opportunities. That’s why today’s evolving challenges call for better, more responsive solutions to address the issues and concerns of women, including in health.
A basic right
Women have a basic right to access health services, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Public health activities and programs must promote gender equality, paying close attention especially to the needs and health issues of women, trans women, and other marginalized genders.
Apart from its active programs for women’s health, the Department of Health (DOH) also supports and highlights the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) Special Leave available to women who undergo surgery due to gynecological disorders (e.g., myomectomy, hysterectomy, ovariectomy, mastectomy, and other disorders involving female reproductive organs). The MCW Special Leave entitles women employees to a two-month leave with full pay following the surgery.
Providing such a health benefit to women is necessary to allow them to care for their SRH, even when major health issues come up. But the work does not stop there.
A long-term task
Within our communities, women still need full access to: 1) health services free from discriminatory practices, and; 2) safe spaces where they can discuss SRH-related concerns, and even report and recover from instances of gender-based violence.
And this needs the collaboration of every sector. Enabling women to be healthy and productive throughout their lives is a long-term task, but it is also one that brings us closer to a Healthy Pilipinas.
When women are physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy, they can do so much to bring about change—whether through taking up different roles in their field of choice or working hard to raise a household of healthy people. At the end of the day, healthy women are key to a Healthy Pilipinas.