ISLAMABAD: Female healthcare service providers rate transportation problems, inadequate security, insufficient maternity benefits and non-existent childcare facilities as critical concerns in their decision to work. These were the findings of a study on gender constraints experienced by female healthcare providers, presented at a two-day conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Health experts from across the country attended the conference on National Maternal, Neonatal & Child Health (MNCH) at Health Services Academy (HSA). Federal Minister for Health Makhdoom Shahabuddin, while addressing the participants, said that female service providers are forced to work in an extremely restrictive social environment where working conditions are unfit to meet even their basic gender needs.
He added, “One of the key challenges we are facing is inadequate number of female service providers- crucial in providing services and information to the female population.”
Dr Assad Hafeez, the dean and head of HSA, said, “Pakistan is a purdah society – one that is based on the segregation of the genders [therefore] public health policies and programs for women are quite difficult to implement.”
Hafeez added that Pakistani women’s social and geographic mobility is minimal, especially in rural villages, due to gender norms within their communities. To deal with the challenges and limitations imposed by these norms, Hafeez said, the government had introduced cadres of community-based female health and family planning workers.
An MNCH Programme representative announced that they were collaborating with Unicef to develop shuttle transport services for working women and establish mother-baby care centres at their work places.
“We all know that female workforce is the backbone of our healthcare system,” said Deepak Bajracharya, Unicef representative.
He added that women have an important and critical role to play in reducing the maternal and newborn mortality rates in Pakistan as women, in case of need, wish to only consult the female healthcare staff.
Shahabuddin also inaugurated a “Mother-Baby Care Centre” at HSA to facilitate female healthcare providers at the institution.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2010.