WHA74: Prioritize gender equality and SRHR to deliver on UHC and the promise of health for all – Women Deliver

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WHA74: Prioritize gender equality and SRHR to deliver on UHC and the promise of health for all

New York, NY, 28 May 2021 | Today, as Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) continue deliberations at the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA), Women Deliver — a global advocate for gender equality and girls’ and women’s health and rights — as part of the Alliance for Gender Equality and Universal Health Coverage (UHC), issues the following statement related to WHA Agenda item 14: Health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

This statement is made by Women Deliver, in collaboration with the International Women’s Health Coalition, and supported by the Alliance for Gender Equality and Universal Health Coverage and its 165 member organizations from 58 countries advocating for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights in UHC. 

The 2019 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage set a foundation for the prioritization of gender equality and SRHR in UHC, but this was undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more, data indicate the world is further off track to meet SRHR-related SDG targets. Estimates for 2020 suggest the pandemic may have disrupted contraceptive use for 12 million women, with an estimated 1.4 million unintended pregnancies across 115 low- and middle-income countries.

The DG’s report on Implementation of Agenda 2030 notes COVID disproportionately affected women through increased maternal mortality, domestic violence, and limited essential services. Even without COVID, the goal of reaching one billion more people with universal health coverage by 2023 is short by 710 million people, and making progress toward the health-related SDGs requires urgent action and investment.

Commitments to gender equality, human rights, and SRH services are essential to achieving UHC, and we recommend Member States utilize WHO’s UHC Compendium to identify SRH services and interventions to best serve their citizens, especially girls, adolescents, women, and marginalized groups. We also recommend strengthening the meaningful engagement and financing of civil society, youth, and health and social workers — who are on the frontlines of health delivery — in the design and implementation of SRHR strategies. Lastly, we call on Member States to commit to strengthen SRHR and service delivery at the upcoming Generation Equality Forum.

Now, it is critical to deliver on the UHC promise of health for all. Doing so requires the prioritization of gender equality and SRHR.