SWITZERLAND – Following the General Equality Forum held last week in France, the world Health Organization (WHO) pledged it would commit to drive change for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all their diversity.

WHO said the newly formed task force will be committed to ending gender-based violence, advancing sexual & reproductive health & rights, and supporting health workers as well as feminist movements and leadership.

The organization will partner with Wellspring, Ford Foundation, UN Women and the Government of the United Kingdom, in the launch of the Shared Agenda Advocacy Accelerator (the Accelerator) to advocate for increasing resources for preventing violence against women and girls.

All this was said during the forum as the world marked the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Women as WHO was leading in two key area that were the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence (co-led with UN Women and other partners) and the Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative between France, Women in Global Health and WHO.

The forum through WHO also recognized the health sector as an important role in achieving women empowerment and they pledged to:

  • Increase the number of countries with clinical protocols focusing on a comprehensive, survivor-centered, empathetic health response for women and girls subjected to violence;
  • Work with partners to scale up evidence-based prevention of violence against women and girls in 25 countries with high prevalence, guided by the RESPECT framework;
  • Develop and supporting the uptake by health providers, policy makers and managers of a training course on health responses to violence against women and girls through the WHO Academy;
  • Establish a comprehensive database to monitor implementation of the Global Action Plan and regularly publishing prevalence estimates from the Global Database;
  • Work with sister UN agencies to scale up the availability of essential, multi-sectoral and survivor-centered services with functional referral mechanisms, for women and girls in all their diversity, in at least 25 high prevalence countries;
  • Support the implementation of the Global Plan of Action on health systems’ response to violence against women and girls.

Sentiments from the WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted that WHO would commit to advocating for decent and safe work conditions for all health and care workers, especially women.

According to WHO, over 35% of women globally are at risk of facing gender-based violence (GBV) in their lifetime and recent study done in South Sudan shows that 65% of women have undergone GBV, a rate that has doubled the global average.

With priority given to engaging with systems within the UN, international partners and external experts, WHO is committed to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse & harassment of women across the globe.