International Day of Rural Women: In the 21st century and still living in dark ages

Appalling health conditions, social taboos biggest challenge for women in rural areas.

Sehrish Wasif October 16, 2011

The results of a rural women camp organised by doctors of the three allied hospitals in Rawalpindi on Saturday might be an indication to the kind of healthcare options available to women in rural areas.

Out of the 250 women who came to the camp, 102 were diagnosed with various gynaecological diseases, of which 24 contracted sexually transmitted diseases from their husbands. The remaining 96 were diagnosed with numerous medical diseases: 22 suffered from Hepatitis C or B, 18 had diabetes, 16 were hypertensive and 10 had thyroid disease. Apart from the above, 24 were suffering from skin diseases, 13 contracted infections from botched surgeries and the remaining had various general ear, nose and throat infections. A majority of these women worked in factories, fields and fruit markets.

Health experts at the camp expressed concern over the absence of healthcare facilities in the area social taboos and lack of awareness, which has worsened the situation.

Dr Khadija Bano, who works at Benazir Bhutto Hospital, said the health conditions of rural women are appalling.

“A majority of them are suffering from sexually transmitted diseases obtained from their husbands who weren’t even aware they had anything. The couple was not getting treatment of any kind due to a lack of awareness, which in turn badly affected the wife’s health since she continued to bear children,” she said.

Dr Bano added that women suffering from a fever were not aware they may have dengue fever and needed to have their platelet counts checked as a precautionary measure. Instead they underwent home therapies or relied on Panadol in hopes of drawing it out, she said.

Dr Muhammad Haroon, Chairman of the Young Doctors’ Association, said that the women who came to the camp did not have access to ultrasound/CT-SCAN machines, antibiotics or potentially life-saving drugs. He added that most women are stigmatised if they visit clinics, so they prefer giving birth at home at the hands of inexperienced make-shift birth attendants. “Occasionally, they are taken to Rawalpindi hospitals but some of them die before reaching help,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2011.

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