Gender equality is key in our quest to achieve sustainable global development. Over time, we have seen gender inequality being experienced not only in areas like politics and education but also in accessing quality healthcare.
We can describe gender inequality in healthcare as prejudice in action or treatment against a person based on their gender in receiving or accessing health care services compared to the opposite gender. This inequality especially with regards to women is mostly rooted in gender norms that are not beneficial to the wellbeing of women and girls practiced by individuals of opposite gender and even women themselves. Women and girls tend to experience situations where gender norms and beliefs have a great influence on how they access health services and how the health system responds to them in their time of need.
Harmful gender norms expose women to early or forced marriage, adolescent pregnancies, unintended pregnancies, and sexual or physical violence, and in these cases, the women lack autonomy and mobility outside the home. Therefore their access to safe, adequate, timely, and affordable health services, particularly in an emergency is undermined.
Reports from NDHS (2018) show that more than half of women (52%) in Nigeria report at least one problem associated with difficulty in accessing healthcare. 11% of these women are faced with the problem of getting permission from their partners to go for treatment. Gender discrimination and stigmatization (especially in cases of rape and domestic violence) in health service delivery leads to poor quality of care that can prevent women from visiting facilities even when health services are available.
While there’s a great need to improve the total quality of health care in Nigeria, it is important to increase access to effective safe, and timely health care services for women and girls free of any form of bias from either health workers or any other.
We can break the bias in women’s access to healthcare by creating programs that influence a change in the perception of women and girls. Also, through strengthening health policies that concern women and girls, we can break the gender bias in the health sector and eliminate gender norms that deprive women of accessing quality health care services.