As the world commemorates the world health day, today, 7th April 2021, the 23 civil society organizations of the PACFaH@Scale project align with the 2021 theme which focuses on fairness, equality and access in the health system. Coming just three weeks after International Women’s Day, the World Health Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the challenges experienced by women as primary health seekers of child and family health.
While the civil society organizations of the PACFaH@Scale project commend the Government of Nigeria for its efforts, to deliver child and family health services in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, as advocacy CSOs and stakeholders, we are nonetheless compelled to draw attention to need to put in place key recommendations for a fairer and more equitable health system for women, especially rural women.
One key recommendation is for greater inclusion of women and women’s associations in health program design, implementation and monitoring platforms at national and sub-national levels. Also, gender-based budgeting has been experimented with over the years in Nigeria but has not gained traction in Nigeria. This is so, despite numerous investments by donor supported open government and open budget initiatives. There is merit, good sense and planning value in knowing how annual budgets as development instruments serve men, women and children differently. Changing the hackney budgeting template to a more gender responsive may be challenging but not impossible with commitment and vision. But perhaps most importantly is the recommendation for greater investment in creating a new generation female health champions to engage government with evidence and conviction on the imperative of making existing primary health care centers functional rather than building new ones.
Sadly, the 2000 decade of investing in women leadership for social service delivery is long gone. However, without dedicated stakeholder commitment towards building women health advocates and advocacy capacity of women in media, in health service delivery, in government and the private sector, fairness in the health system will continue to illude us. Women still need permission to access health services, they need to draw from the family’s stock of wealth to pay for children’s medical emergencies, they need functional primary health care centers walking distances from their home for ease of access, and they need health and nutrition and education to protect their families. Without a purposeful approach to addressing the needs of women in public health budgeting, policy making, programming and monitoring, the theme of this year’s World Health Day on fairness, may well continue to be relevant in the Nigerian health system in years to come.