Dialogues for Change: Women Parliamentarians Leading Health Policy Reform

The 8th of March serves as a commemoration of women’s strength, resilience, and the multitude of achievements they’ve contributed to society. It is also a reminder to continue to stand up for women’s rights, and their presence in health, in politics and advocacy. In the domain of health policy, UNITE is interested in the contribution of women as parliamentarians. 

In this context, UNITE had the privilege of interviewing Honourable Pia Cayetano from the Philippines, Chapter Chair at UNITE for the Asia Pacific Region and members of UNITE Honourable Touriya Faraj from Morocco and Honourable Joana Mamombe from Zimbabwe. Through this interview, we aim to focus into their experiences and perspectives on parliamentary work concerning health issues. 

This dialogue focuses on four key questions, which explore addressing health disparities, advocacy for a healthier population, and objectives in health legislation, including concrete and personal examples. 

Through this article, we endeavour to shed light on the invaluable contributions of women parliamentarians like Honourable Pia Cayetano, Honourable Touriya Faraj and Honourable Joana Mamombe, who strive to champion policies that foster healthier communities and promote the well-being of all individuals.  

 

Motivations and Inspirations 

Hon. Cayetano inspirations for inclusive and preventive healthcare advocacy was inspired by the illnesses of her father, who had liver cancer, and her son, who had a medical condition called Trisomy 13, which tragically claimed their lives.

Hon. Faraj, draws from her professional experience. As a health professional, the experiencing of this reality at a professional level inspired her to focus her parliamentary work on the health area, especially to protect the rights of citizens to have access to healthcare and the rights of health workers. 

Hon. Mamombe emphasizes the vital intersection between women’s health and climate action. She highlights the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation on women’s health and well-being, advocating for gender-responsive policies and empowering women in climate resilience efforts.

 

Strategies for Change 

All three parliamentarians stress the importance of awareness and collaboration. Hon. Cayetano emphasizes the need to raise awareness and find allies in different sectors like the government, civil society, and media to advance healthcare causes, particularly those addressing gender disparities.  

Hon. Cayetano explains that other specific strategies includes ensuring that laws acknowledging and addressing the health care needs that are distinct to women are fully implemented and properly funded; sufficient and far-reaching information dissemination about public health programs and services that women may avail of; providing gender and development training for healthcare providers; and crafting policies reflecting women’s dual role in society, as co-equal providers and primary caregivers, including recognizing that women are providers and recipients of healthcare, especially in the homes. 

Meanwhile, Hon. Faraj advocates for guaranteeing social care and equitable access to healthcare and integrating the gender approach at the political level, including in the ministry of health program, as well as guaranteeing access to education for girls. 

Hon. Mamombe urges prioritizing gender-responsive policies to safeguard their health.

 

Legislative Endeavours 

Regulation of harmful products such as tobacco and alcohol, including the regulation of publicity and marketing for these products, and dangerous chemicals for the environment is a common objective between Hon. Faraj and Hon. Cayetano. Additionally, the active promotion and raising awareness for healthier lifestyles, including nutrition, exercise and regular medical check-ups. 

The focus on maternal and infant health and nutrition, address chronic hunger, and disease prevention is key for a healthier population.  

Hon. Cayetano highlights key legislative changes she has championed, including laws ensuring access to quality and affordable medicines the Universally Accessible Cheaper & Quality Medicines Act, free vaccines for preventable diseases the Mandatory Infants & Children Health Immunization Act, and funding for universal healthcare through initiatives like the Sin Tax Reform Act, the Rare disease and Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy act and the Mental Health Law 

Hon. Faraj advocates for legislative for laws that guarantee equitable access to healthcare, regulate harmful products, protect patients’ rights, ensure fair social protection, and protect the rights of health professionals, leading to the creation of the Midwives Order. Hon. Faraj also advocated for the adoption of PMA (Medically Assisted Procreation) legislation. 

 

Conclusion 

Hon. Cayetano initiatives have left a lasting impact on healthcare accessibility, affordability, and quality in the Philippines. Her efforts extend to crucial programs such as immunization, family and reproductive health, and care for people with rare diseases.

Hon. Faraj, leverages her past activism as the president of the Association of Midwives, advocating for the validation of the Midwives’ Order and promoting reproductive health and initiatives such as the paternity leave. 

Hon. Mamombe emphasizes the vital intersection between women’s health and climate action, urging for gender-responsive policies and empowerment initiatives in climate resilience efforts.

In the global pursuit of health equity, these parliamentarians stand as inspirations for progress, demonstrating how personal experiences, strategic collaboration, and legislative action can drive meaningful change in healthcare systems worldwide. 

 

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