Empowered Voices: Parliamentarians UNITE for Global Health Equality

UNITE presents “Let’s Talk Health”, a dynamic series of conversations aimed at addressing critical public health issues across the Asia Pacific region. These discussions are designed to engage parliamentarians in meaningful dialogues, foster collaboration, raise awareness, and identify effective solutions to pressing health challenges.

In this episode, UNITE members came together to explore the intersection of health policies and the realities faced by women in the region. 9 distinguished speakers, including 8 parliamentarians from 7 Asia Pacific countries – Philippines, India, Macao, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Australia – UNITE to champion gender-responsive policies and advance global health equality.

Hon. Pia Cayetano,  UNITE’s Chapter Chair for Asia Pacific, underscored the intertwined nature of healthgender equality, and sustainable development. Drawing from her role as a Senator in the Philippines, Hon. Pia shared insights into gender-responsive implementation in policies.

"Gender and Sustainable Financing is a very important topic because, without specific interventions, budgets may not necessarily be gender sensitive. So in the Magna Card of Women law that I mention, it is very specific that 5% of the total budgetary allocation must be utilized for gender and development."

Hon. Pia Cayetano, The Philippines Tweet

Click below to watch Hon. Pia Cayetano’s full intervention.

Hon. Agnes Lam, from Macao, discussed nuanced and responsive healthcare systems, particularly concerning women’s health in lower income families. Hon. Lam stressed the need for engagement, an enabling environment, and greater access to crucial healthcare services.

Hon. Habibe Milliat shed light on Bangladesh‘s strides in reducing maternal mortality rates and promoting gender equality in health decision-making. Hon. Milliat highlighted the importance of midwives and skilled professionals in achieving better maternal health outcomes.  

Hon. Fauzia Khan from India shed light on her country’s challenges, namely maternal health issues and mental health neglect. Hon. Fauzia also advocated for comprehensive reproductive health care, addressing non-communicable diseases, and better healthcare infrastructure. 

Hon. Fiona Patten, from Australia, highlighted the gendered impact of drug policy reform. Hon. Fiona underscored the need for comprehensive research that considers women’s experiences  and emphasized the importance of addressing bias and inequities in drug policies.

"In particular, when we're looking at recovery and if we're looking at Opioid Replacement Therapy, for example, our research into those treatments has largely only been done on men. It has not been done on women. Women are excluded."

Hon. Fiona Patten, Australia Tweet

Hon. Anjana Bishankhe shared Nepal‘s commitment to gender equality and reproductive health. Policies targeting women’s interests, promoting gender balance in local politics, and sensitizing parliamentarians to gender disparity were highlighted. 

Hon. Sophia Moermond emphasized equitable research funding and the need to address racism, sexism, and transportation barriers in Australia’s healthcare system.

Hon. Sania Nishtar discussed gender-sensitive measures taken during her tenure as Minister of Social Protection in Pakistan. Her initiatives aimed at prioritizing women’s welfare, education, and access to finance and healthcare. 

"We took the fundamental decision that the girl child was going to have a higher statement. So Pakistan became one of the few countries in the world where the girl child was given a higher stipend amount. If the family complied with certain health centered, nutrition centered and education, relevant conditionalities, and the conditional cash transfer programs."

Hon. Sania Nishtar, Pakistan Tweet

Ravindra Garimella, Parliamentary officer discussed India‘s progress in enhancing gender representation in parliament and the importance of committees, conferences, and women leaders in raising women’s issues. 

Click below to watch the full session.

The “Empowered Voices” episode exemplifies UNITE’s commitment to driving change through inclusive discussions and actionable insights. From advocating gender-responsive policies to addressing gender disparities in leadership and promoting comprehensive sex education, the collective wisdom of UNITE members from the Asia Pacific region illuminates a path towards a more equitable and inclusive global health landscape. 

Through continued collaboration, dialogue, and policy interventions, parliamentarians wield the power to drive meaningful change, advance gender equality, and ensure equitable access to healthcare for women and girls worldwide. 

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