|Breaking the Barriers - Women and the Elimination of World Poverty (DFID, 1999, 24 p.)|
|Education and health|
DFID is one of the world's leading donors in the health sector. Our spending on health has more than doubled in the 1990s.
Our priorities include promoting children by choice and improving sexual and reproductive health. We are also addressing maternal mortality and other health risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth.
The 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development recognised the direct link between health and women's empowerment, and we seek to carry this forward in our work.
We have made an important contribution to slowing the rate of world population growth and creating opportunities for women to choose when to have children and the family size they want.
Improving the availability of contraceptives is essential to this work. We work with governments, NGOs and other organisations, and support the subsidised social marketing of condoms and other contraceptives, in Cambodia, India, Latvia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A key target for the 2Ist century is to reduce maternal mortality rates by three-quarters. This is a huge challenge. DFID's four-point plan for safer motherhood ensures that:
· women have sufficient information to make sound decisions about their health before and during pregnancy;
· good quality services are provided and accessible at all times;
· women in need and their carers can call for help and access services when necessary;
· the safety of motherhood is properly monitored and appropriate action taken as a result of the information obtained.
We are supporting work to implement this plan, with new initiatives now underway in Kenya, Malawi, and Nepal.
Nowhere are the obstacles faced by women to health - and the inequalities faced by poor women -revealed more starkly than in the figures for maternal mortality. The tragedy and indecency is that we know the major causes of maternal mortality, and the kind of care that pregnant women need when things go wrong. Without better access to improved basic obstetric care for those who need it, women will continue to die in pregnancy and childbirth. We must do better. These are not principally matters of science. They are matter of political and moral choice and will
Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development. Speech on World Population Day, 1997.
Better sexual health is a priority Women are especially vulnerable to infection which often goes unnoticed until serious damage has been done HIV/AIDS is a particular concern, both because of the devastating effects it has on individuals and communities and because of the disproportionate burden of care which falls on women We support programmes which improve access to quality basic services, and community-based campaigns to promote safer sex to help empower women and girls to reject unwanted sexual attention
Ground breaking DFID-funded research in East Africa has shown that early and thorough treatment of sexually transmitted infections can reduce the incidence of HIV infection by as much as 40%.
In many parts of the world, young people are denied access to sexual health services, despite the fact that every year one in 20 young people world-wide contracts a sexually transmitted infection More than 60% of new HIV infections are in young people aged between I5 and 24, the majority of whom are girls
DFID's strategy is to support initiatives to
· improve young people's access to information about sex and sexuality,
· help develop social skills and gender awareness (particularly among young men) to enable them to be more responsible in sexual relationships and develop confidence, self-respect, and respect for others; and
· improve access to gender sensitive, and youth friendly services, including making condoms and other contraceptives more readily available to young people when they do commence sexual relations
We aim to provide information to young people in a language and style they can easily understand.
Making health services more responsive to women's needs is one of our key aims. In East Africa and Latin America, guidelines have been developed for involving women in assessing the quality of reproductive health services and using the findings to make improvements.
A health promotion pilot project in The Gambia is just one example of our work to help end the practice of female genital mutilation. We are also supporting the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its efforts to develop policy and coordinate a better international response to the problem.