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Health is a Fundamental Human Right
The Health Caucus urges all governments to take a human rights-based approach to raising the standard of health for women. We urge you to:
- Ensure that all women, irrespective of age, ethnicity, religious and cultural background, sexual orientation or geographic location, have access to good quality, comprehensive physical and mental health services, including prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs. Ensure health services are acceptable, accessible, affordable, and appropriate to the needs of women.
- Increase resources for women’s health services to achieve the above results. Provide financial and other forms of support for unwaged care-givers. Acknowledge that unpaid women provide more health services than all health industries combined.
- Provide institutional mechanisms for women to participate fully and equally in decision-making. Provide ongoing training and education for women, from basic literacy to higher education, including health education at all levels of the community.
- Implement affirmative action measures to increase the number of women and to ensure equal participation of women in policy-making, research, planning, implementation, and evaluation.
- Ensure access to adequate nutrition and safe food, clean water, clean air, sanitation, and shelter for all women, and educate women in the inter-relationships of environment and health. Recognize that living conditions to support good health involve far more than simply having access to health care.
- Establish a social pact between governments and all interested parties to guarantee a package of essential services to cover the health care of all women and girls, particularly the marginalized indigenous, poor, elderly and disabled.
- Educate all health personnel in human rights and ethics. Ensure that they treat women with respect, dignity, privacy, and confidentiality and provide nonjudgemental care that is free of coercion, discrimination, threat, and violence.
- Ensure women’s rights to make fully informed decisions regarding health status, prevention and treatment options, and their ramifications.
- Ensure women’s rights to make fully informed choices about infant nutrition and breastfeeding. Ensure that the International Labour Organization (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention (103) and Recommendation (95) are revised at the ILO Conference in June 2000 in ways that strengthen entitlements for women at work. Implement the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.
- Ensure that economic and health reforms, trade agreements and structural adjustment policies fully protect the provision of health, education, and social services. Redirect an amount equivalent to at least 5% of military expenditures annually to women’s health services. Ensure that health sector reforms enhance women’s health and increase their access to safe and affordable health services.
- Put public health before commercial interests, for example, in trade agreements. Ensure equal access to essential drugs and medical supplies. Protect patents to indigenous medicines. Prohibit export of substandard drugs and chemicals such as pesticides to developing countries.
- For health workers at all levels, ensure safe working conditions, equal pay for equal work, and gender sensitive training.
- Increase medical research on women’s health, yet protect women from unethical medical experimentation, especially poor and marginalized women. Research prevention of and treatment for breast cancer, reproductive cancers, osteoporosis, and other conditions that affect women most.
- Increase research on women’s nutrition throughout the life cycle. Develop and strengthen approaches to reduce undernutrition in women and nutritional deficiencies that impact women most, particularly folic acid, iron and iodine.
- Recognize the health consequences of gender-related violence.
- Disseminate the message that HIV/AIDS may affect everyone and must be dealt with openly.
- Provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and programs.
The Health Caucus believes that vigorous implementation of these and similar recommendations will go far in raising the status of women’s health worldwide.
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