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First Lady Calls For Me’s Greater Role In Womens Health

The First Lady, Neo Masisi, said the involvement of men in women's health is vital as they have a huge influence on women's health initiatives and interventions.

She stated that the role of men in promoting women’s health is often downplayed while the empowerment and autonomy of women themselves becomes the main attraction.

Masisi said this when officiating at the first ever international women’s health conference that was held at the University of Botswana under the theme, ‘innovative approaches in women’s health: empowering health care professionals’.

She stated that in many cultures men are the gatekeepers to health care, transportation and social activities for their wives and daughters hence better to be considered in the development of women’s health programmes.

“An example of this can be seen in Jane Brown’s discussion of the Go-girl initiative.

Professor Brown, a social and behaviour change communication strategist from Johns Hopkins University and her colleagues implemented this special PEPFAR initiative between 2007 and 2010 addressing girls’ vulnerability to HIV in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique,” she said.

She stated that the programme, which focused on training in life skills and adult child communication helped parents navigate the sensitive and often awkward conversations they need to have with their children to support safe and healthy futures.

Masisi said Professor Brown described how fathers who participated in the programme felt more comfortable talking with their daughters, therefore such discussions with fathers should start much earlier.

She stated that women’s health is indeed a major determinant of the nation’s health and the health of future generations. She said if the societies of the world are to advance, women must be educated and empowered so as to increase their impact on social and economic development.

The First Lady said that it is often said that the health and wellbeing of a

woman is the health and wellbeing of the nation, hence women are healthier when they feel valued, acknowledged, appreciated and empowered.

“In turn, healthy women contribute to healthy families, leading to healthy communities and ultimately healthy societies. Information pertaining to the status of women’s health requires a lot more attention if we are to adequately understand what contributes to their health in general,” she said.

She said in this respect there is a need to identify barriers such as the lack of a coherent policy framework for women’s health as well as the narrow focus on the clinical aspects of health, to the exclusion of social and economic determinants.

The First Lady said there is a need for gender inequalities to be addressed before women can truly attain economic security, which is one of the major determinants of good health.

She said incidences of sexual abuse against women and children as well as domestic violence, which severely compromise their health and wellbeing, remains a create concern.

She however applauded the country to have so far made strides to improve the health of its people over the last decade. She said perhaps two significant decisions whose impact will be felt for generations to come was the commencement of national HIV treatment in 2002, the 2015 roll out of the national HPV vaccine for adolescent girls to prevent cervical cancer.

For her part, Dr Doreen Ramogola-Masire, the co-chair of the conference’s organising committee said the first ever-international women’s health conference provided a platform to allow for constructive dialogue towards women’s health and they intend to hold it annually towards promoting women’s health issues.


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