18-2 Women’s Health & Women’s StatusWomen’s health (or ill-health) is directly related to her status in society. Women’s poor status in society isreflected in her poor health. We cannot expect to help women get better health unless we can understandand do something about lifting her status too. Gender and gender differences (dividing work based onideas about what is a man’s role and what is a woman’s role) influence health of women. We shouldunderstand these concepots well so that along with other women we are able to make a lasting change. “Sex” is different from “Gender”Sex is the bodily difference between man and Gender: Society dumps all men andwoman. Women alone can bear children and women into two groups of males andmen cannot. Men have beards, women do not. females. From males, they expect aThe body structure of men is different from certain behaviour and males are givenwomen. Their voice is also very different from certain roles. Similarly, society expectswomen. It is not always that some of these women to perform particular roles andmale features hold good. Like sometimes behave in certain ways that “befits” aeven men have a thin voice sounding like a woman. So, girls are not expected towoman. But this is rare and usually men have drive a motorcycle or do well inthicker voices than women. Men are mathematics. Men cannot raisemuscular, women are not . Various hormones children or cook food. Men fight in thethat flow in the body of men and women army and they fly aeroplanes. Womencause these differences. While “sex” is the are the nurses in the hospital that lookactual bodily difference between men and after these men who fight or fly. Menwomen, gender is something else. are the ones who plough the fields, and women are the ones who pluck out the weeds. Sex is Physical Difference between Man & Woman and Gender is role difference between Male & Female
18-3“What do youdo?” I asked.“Oh Nothing”,answered the woman.
18-4 Men make rules …. Women quietly follow ! Men have ruled and made the rules!Men have ruled the world and most rules in society have beenmade by them. They made rules that were in their favor andmany of these rules were against women.Let us look at some of the rules made by man and how theyaffect the health of women (apart from affecting many otherareas of women’s lives).a. “Only a man’s work is work”From dawn till night a woman’s work never ends. She works in thefield, looks after the children, cooks, cleans, washes, weaves, fetcheswater, collects firewood and does a hundred other backbreakingtasks. Yet when you ask a man “what does your wife do?”, there isevery chance that he will say “Nothing”. Not only that, you ask awoman “What do you do?” and there is every chance that she toowill say “Nothing”.Woman’s role as producers and rearers of children (and of workforce) is not considered work or as an economic contribution. Itholds no value and in society’s way of thinking, the personproducing such valueless work is also of no value !b. “Men work harder c. “Men should take care ofand so they need more their health as they bring in thefood”. money”It is accepted that ‘women When we look at OPD or hospitalcannot eat as much as men’ records, about two thirds of allthat women end up eating admissions are of men. From a youngmuch less than what they age, girls are taught that to sacrificeneed. Pregnant women and ‘not to create a bother’ is the wayrequire more food than men they are supposed to behave. Womenworking in the fields and are not supposed to “make a fuss”when they are breastfeeding and so they get to the hospital onlya child., the need double the when they cannot work or walk anyfood men eat. longer!Because women do not get It is no wonder that in countries like India, out of oneenough nutrition, almost thousand women who give birth, about 55 women die in theseventy percent of all women in process. Compare this to many countries of Europe whereIndia are found to have out of 1 lakh (one hundred thousand) women who give birth,anaemia when their blood is only two may die.tested !d. “Only men know how to control the resources”Most property and other productive resources are controlled by men and they pass from one manto another, usually from father to son. Even where women have legal rights over property,emotional pressures, social sanctions and sometimes, plain violence prevents them from havingactual control over it. Not only do women not have control over property but most times, theyhave no control over the husband’s income. It is the man who ends up deciding what to spend on,where to spend and when to spend. If a woman is sick, she has no power to decide whether shecan get treatment or not. Even if she would like to get treatment, she has no control over theresources by which she can buy treatment. Unless the man decides that she needs treatment andis willing to spend to get her treated, women most often do not have the power to decide.
18-5No control in most ways Do more and get less !Years and years Women are half the They do three fourthsof the same world’s population of the world’s workrules... Everyonehas accepted itand no one wants Workto question it. Men Women done 50% 50% byThe result ? womenWomen have nocontrol over thework they are expected to do,over the money they are sup-posed to get or over the re- They earn only ... and they own only onesources that should be theirs. 1/10th of the hundreth of theWomen have no control over world’s income world’s property !where they want to go and whenthey want to go. Not only that,they do not even have controlover their own bodies. It is notin their hands to decide whenthey want children, how manychldren they want or if they evenwant children at all or not! Other things that go in to make women more ill * Bad communication: Then, even if women want to seek help if they are sick, bad communication makes it difficult for them to do so. Most of our areas in the northeast are remote and poorly connected to medical and other facilities. Women, being less mobile suffer the most in these cases. They have to think ten times before seeking treatment and by the time they do so, they have to suffer more and the cost of treatment becomes unaffordable. * Bad Sanitation: The state of our * Violence & Insecurity : In the sanitation facilities in the rural atmosphere of violence and area is very poor. Most insecurity that surrounds us in the households do not have proper region, it is again the health of latrines or bathing facilities. women that suffers the most. Women’s hygiene suffers the most Violence and militancy has caused in such cases, as they are unable the collapse of the health care to wash themselves properly. As system in most places and women a result, constant attacks of are unable to access it close to their Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) houses. The mental health of and Reproductive Tract women too suffers greatly as they Infections (RTIs) are common. have to bear a greater mental burden The health and well being of in times of turmoil and tension. women suffer greatly in this case. Women get caught in a vicious cycle of malnourishment and illness. Thus, women have to carry greater emotional and physical burdens thoughout their lives.
l8-7 Numbers also tell us of the position of women1. Sex ratioSex ratio tells us the number of women there are to every thousand men in society.This is a very important indicator as girl babies are known to be biologically stronger thanboy babies. More boys than girls die before they are 6 months old. But after that, thepicture reverses : there are more men than women. Look at the figures below. Where haveall the women gone? What has happened to them? Sex ratio (female per 1,000 males) : 1901-2001 India/ State/ Census year Union territory * 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 INDIA 972 964 955 950 945 946 941 930 934 927 933 Arunachal NA NA NA NA NA NA 894 861 862 859 901 Nagaland 973 993 992 997 1,021 999 933 871 863 886 909 Manipur 1,037 1,029 1,041 1,065 1,055 1,036 1,015 980 971 958 978 Mizoram 1,113 1,120 1,109 1,102 1,069 1,041 1,009 946 919 921 938 Tripura 874 885 885 885 886 904 932 943 946 945 950 Meghalaya 1,036 1,013 1,000 971 966 949 937 942 954 955 975 Assam 919 915 896 874 875 868 869 896 910 923 932 Sikkim 916 951 970 967 920 907 904 863 835 878 8752. Literacy level of womenIn almost all societies, greater impor- Percentage of Literacy among womentance is given to men getting knowl- % of Literacy in the northeastedge. With knowledge, men can ac- Place Total % Literate Men Literate Womencess the outside world much more India 65.38 75.96 54.28than women. They make decisions Arunachal 54.74 64.07 44.24and they are the ones who lead. Nagaland 67.11 71.77 61.92 Manipur 68.87 77.87 59.7Without formal literacy, women get Mizoram 88.49 90.69 86.13shut off to information and ideas that Tripura 73.66 81.47 65.41can help better their lives. They con- Meghalaya 63.31 66.14 60.44tinue to live as they have lived, with Assam 64.28 71.98 56.03no progress and no improvement. Sikkim 69.68 76.73 61.46 Women MUST and CAN change written rules.... And take charge of their lives and their selves.