Placing the health of women and girls in their hands
Women and adolescent girls have the right to decide if, to whom and when they want to get married, have children, how many children and what health facility they go to. But can they? For millions of them around the world, the answer is NO! Women and girls’ health and access to services can be determined by the men or other powerholders in their lives, whether it’s a parent, in-law or partner.
Explore this six-part multimedia series by scrolling through the content below to learn more about how this gender transformative* Gender transformative projects have an explicit rights-based intention to transform unequal gender power relations which are often at the heart of many disadvantages faced by women and girls; the focus goes beyond improving the condition of women and girls to improve their social position. Gender transformative projects address the root causes of gender inequality and promote the value of women and girls health project is helping entire communities champion women and adolescent girls’ health while moving the needle on gender equality.
Change in her hands
Coming to the hospital is a real ordeal. we are discouraged, as are the doctors. They are doing their best, but the lack of equipment is obvious here.
mme Ellette Francois
Show formed or revitalized over 1300 community health committees.
These will help to contribute to improved gender responsive and adolescent friendly service delivery
Cash in hand
As part of SHOW’s gender transformative approach to build women’s agency, we worked with women to form Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). “In all SHOW countries, the VSLA interventions were carefully planned and guided to go beyond the traditional saving and lending model. They became platforms for dialogue on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls,” says Saadya Hamdani, Director of Gender Equality at Plan International Canada.
“Some savings groups were led by health facility staff directly,” explains Tahina Rabezanahary, the Director of Program Management and Compliance at Plan International Canada. “The head of the health facility may be the Vice-President of the group, so you could have excellent discussions about maternal, child and adolescent health at these meetings.”
In each country, VSLA groups received training, together with a kit including a lockbox to keep the cash, a notebook for records, a passbook for every member, a stamp and ink, and three padlocks and keys. At each meeting, women would contribute cash to the collective box. Every few weeks, women would have the option to borrow money from the box to start a small venture of their own, such as setting up a market stall.
Women learned how to save and manage money individually, manage money as a group, establish businesses, and strengthen their leadership, decision-making and collective action.
“Through the VSLA, women could have year-round access to funds,” says Theodora Quaye. “When women have money, others have no choice but to listen to them.”
VSLAs saved a total of $673,150. Senegal’s VLSAs saved $439,572, and in Ghana, the associations saved $193,397.
Men also took part – and had training on why the VSLAs were important for their wives, family income, and the health of their families.
“This orientation opened my eyes," one man told us in Panchari, Bangladesh. “We are thinking of taking a loan from the group to start a small business. This way my wife will be able to contribute to our children’s education. From today I will also take part in the household activities and I will encourage my wife to take decisions in our family matters.”
There’s also a second type of fund – an emergency ‘social’ fund that enables women to borrow interest-free, or receive a grant for medical emergencies.
Plan International’s VSLA data shows that approximately 80% of the women who made use of social funds in Nigeria, used them to access health services and many of them were able to deliver their child safely in a health centre.
In Bangladesh, an estimated 75% of women used saving group funds to pay for their children’s education and health.
“Most of the time my husband is away as he is the only bread winner. I didn’t have any money at hand and in emergencies I felt insecure. But now through our group we can save money and use it easily in any emergency. I feel secure.” -Beauty Akter, member of Shapla VSG from Ultachari Union, Bangladesh
SHOW project communities in Ghana and other countries took this a step further and connected the village saving association members directly with community emergency transport (CETS) workers. The partnership ensured there was always funding to transport women to a health facility when she needed to go.
“Recently when I fell ill, my mother and I took loans from the VSLA to pay for the hospital bill,” a 30-year old woman from a Ghanain community told us. “The ambulance operator came for his payment only after I had been discharged. This is a huge change that the SHOW Project has brought to our community.”
And communities continued to demand them. In one community in Ghana for example, there were two VSLAs initially , and they were so popular, people in the area formed twelve more using seed funding from the original VSLAs. In Haiti, communities requested to add 15 additional VSLA groups.
This orientation opened my eyes. We are thinking of taking a loan from the group to start a small business. This way my wife will be able to contribute to our children’s education.
Spouse of Village Savings Group Member
Through the VSLA, women have year-round access to funds. When women have money, others have no choice but to listen to them.
Plan International Ghana
In Senegal, VSLAs saved more than $439,000..
“When a woman has her own money, she can make decisions about her life.”
Plan international senegal
More than 6500 community health workers, mostly women, were trained in gender-responsive and adolescent friendly counselling and health service delivery.
The results are exciting. Half-way through SHOW, we saw an increase of deliveries with skilled birth attendants from a quarter of women to a third. There is still work to do, but achieving this much gain in a short time proves what can be done.
Dr. Kabiru Atta
Plan International Nigeria
Click the links below to learn more about the show project’s actions to empower women to achieve improved mnch outcomes
- Community Health Committees: What Enables them to Flourish and Support Gender Responsive and Adolescent Friendly Health Services?
- Gender Responsive and Adolescent-Friendly Referrals in the SHOW Project: Ensuring Pregnant Women and Adolescent Girls Reach Higher Levels of Care
- Consultations prénatales de groupe pour une experience de grossesse positive au Sénégal (Mars 2019) (French only)
- More on Mama Kits : Impacting Maternal Newborn Mortality in Sokoto and Bauchi by Boosting Hospital Delivery
Join our mailing list to receive updates
By signing up you agree to receive our emails.