France launches joint initiative to improve position of women in health sector

Global health – Gender equality/launch of the initiative on the position of women in the health and care sector – Communiqué issued by the Minister for Solidarity and Health

Paris, 26 February 2021

France, the World Health Organization and the NGO Women in Global Health have officially launched the global initiative on the position of women in the health and care sector during a virtual conference on Thursday 25 February 2021.

Initiative on the position of women in the health and care sector

For months, medical staff worldwide have been making very active and tireless efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring continuity of care. Accounting for 70% of human resources for health, women bear the heaviest burden of these efforts and are most exposed to COVID-19.

A significant disparity is observed worldwide between jobs held by women and men in the health sector. Men make up the majority of specialist doctors and hold most of the leadership positions in health systems governance. In contrast, women working in the health sector have limited access to positions of responsibility and are generally paid less or even not at all. This inequality between women and men working in the health and care sector is acting as a brake on the achievement of universal health coverage (UHC) and health for all.

“Promoting the position of women, who play a crucial role at the heart of our health systems and are often the first to be affected by growing inequality, is more necessary than ever. Such is our ambition, translated into action through this initiative which is a further step towards tangible gender equality in the health and care sector, a few months ahead of the Generation Equality Forum”, said Olivier Véran, Minister for Solidarity and Health.

“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on inequality between the sexes as regards leadership, pay and working conditions for women working in the health and care sector, who provide health services to around five billion people. Women in Global Health is proud to partner this initiative, which we believe can provide a new, well-deserved social contract for women in the sector”, said Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director of Women in Global Health.

The pandemic has also highlighted profound inequalities – between women and men in particular – within and between countries. The purpose of the initiative on the position of women in the health and care sector is to argue at international level for the advancement of women and girls in the health and care sector. It is part of the United Nations’ Generation Equality campaign, which supports efforts to promote gender equality and is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action.

Mobilizing the international community through concrete action

The initiative aims to promote the introduction of practical measures to:

1. Increase the proportion of women in leadership positions in the health sector.

2. Get unpaid work recognized and reduce pay gaps between men and women.

3. Protect women against sexual harassment and violence at work.

4. Guarantee safe, decent working conditions.

By joining this coalition and taking part in this initiative, the signatory States and international organizations pledge to work concretely to reduce gender inequality in the health sector, and recognize and value the position of women within health systems.

“We welcome this new initiative with France and have also already collaborated closely with other ministries, particularly those in the areas of education, health and foreign affairs. It is precisely action at this level of political engagement promoting genuine intersectorial collaboration which can make a significant difference in the professional lives of millions of women in the health and care sector”, said Dr Jim Campbell, Director of the Health Workforce Department, WHO.

A series of landmark events leading up to the Generation Equality Forum which is being held by France in Paris in June 2021

Several landmark events will be organized throughout the first half of 2021 to mobilize the international community and rally as many signatories as possible, particularly at the following meetings: the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2021, the World Health Assembly in May 2021 and the Generation Equality Forum which is being held by France in Paris in June 2021.

Published on 02/03/2021

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