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Govt apathy to women’s health issues deplored

KARACHI – Commitment on part of the local government authorities, including nazimeen and councillors, towards welfare of the masses has been termed a positive development with particular reference to mother and child health.

The fact was appreciated by women rights activists who discussed their advocacy experience in reproductive health at a session organized by an NGO, Shirkatgah, on October 19.

Ms Venice of Jhugia Sihana village, located 16Km off Shahdara, Ms Jamila from Shahdadkot, Larkana district and Shoaib from Chakra Goth, a coastal village in Karachi, on the occasion also underscored the need for close coordination among community-based organization with maximum involvement of public representative to address the issue.

It was observed that strong but irrational notions regarding ailments and unwarranted death continue to haunt a large majority of the local women as no effective intervention was sought to address the situation, often under illogical pretexts.

The activists also mentioned that besides the rampant irrational public attitude, apathy of policy makers as well as that of healthcare providers towards women health in particular and public health in general was further aggravating the misery of the underprivileged people.

With particular reference to maternal health, it was mentioned that very often women themselves were not fully conscious of its requirements, or were reluctant to seek the same, they said. Moreover, inadequate infrastructure, improper transportation facilities, besides dearth of qualified and trained professionals were among the major stumbling blocks in this regard.

Yet, the exercise undertaken by Umeed Trust, Shadara, Peri Urban Social Welfare Organization, Chakra Goth and Parbhat Women Development Society, Larkana, respectively, comprising interactive discussions with community members, including councillors and nazimeen, revealed that change, to a great extent, was possible.

Acknowledging the fact that rectifying the public perception about reproductive health could be a lengthy process, and that misconceptions towards the issue could be modified through education, it was recommended that the topics related to the subject could be incorporated into the curriculum of secondary and high schools.

Khawar Mumtaz, Coordinator of Shirkatgah, Lahore, speaking to the participants, mentioned that during the last ten years since the Cairo Conference, Pakistan was registered to have a few achievements to its credit, with particular reference to education, as now the rate of girl enrolled with primary school programme had risen by 38 per cent, while the gap between boys and girls enrolment remained at 30 per cent.

Use of contraceptive was also said to have improved, while fertility rate had been reduced, but maternal mortality rates remained as high as it was 10 years back, she added.

Mr Mumtaz also discussed the reasons leading to the scenario and the urgency to address the same. She also reminded that women’s contribution to the national economy came to around 62 per cent, and that they were mainly associated with non-formal sectors. She also referred to poverty as a major contributory factor in poor social indicators.

Earlier, introducing the Women Health Rights Advocacy Partnership (WHRAP), Dr Samrah mentioned that the idea of a network of individuals and organizations concerned with reproductive health issues emerged in 1994 at the Second Asia Pacific Social Science and Medical Conference.

The WHARP was also said to be aimed at building civil society capacity to effectively advocate these issues at the local, national and regional levels.

Currently implemented in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, it was planned to be eventually cover the whole Asia Pacific region.

Source: Dawn

Date:10/20/2004

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