A new global report has revealed that global organisations that specialise in reproductive and sexual health and rights (SRHR) are neglecting the well-being of their own female staff members.
Among the 197 organisations that Global Health 50/50 observed, only one had a policy on menstruation, menopause, and abortion in the workplace.
Global Organisations Neglect Staff Wellbeing
The report, released on Wednesday, stated that 29 organisations allowed women to use sick leaves for reproductive needs and came up with alternatives when they needed sick leaves.
The initiative’s cofounder, Professor Sarah Hawkes, called the findings "damning." She stated that, despite being in the 21st century, gender discrimination continues to be prevalent in all areas of life for women.
She pointed out that using sick leaves for periods and menopause made it seem like it was a sickness and added that if women used their sick leaves for their reproductive needs, they would be left with little time for other health issues.
She said that the lack of policies to attend to SRHR would make one wonder whether the organisation was set up to be a women-friendly workplace.
The report highlighted that only 18 organisations provided full maternity benefits to their staff who had suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. It was also found that only 21 organisations had policies in place to support their employees, pointing out the lack of domestic violence policies.
Dr Hawkers said that the organisation, being active in promoting global health, had the responsibility to uphold women’s reproductive and sexual needs. She further noted that the organisation was fighting against the globe to enable women to have fundamental human rights, but pointed out that they don't seem to apply it to themselves.
The former president of New Zealand, Helen Clark, who is a member of the advisory board of Global Health 50/50, noted that the lack of policies revealed how taboos around sexual and reproductive health were deeply ingrained in society.
The report called for more leadership from the global community and noted that more action was needed to guarantee SRHR, but this made it more difficult with the global backlash and rising, well-funded, and active opposition to goals of gender equality".
A global health researcher, Lynda Gilby, studied the opposition to SRHR and said that it involved well-funded lobbying groups but also several countries, such as Russia, that veto any mention of sexual and reproductive health in UN negotiations. She noted that it was really frustrating that SRHR has become so politicised because it’s a health service and a right to health service, which are embedded in international laws and regulations. However, the opposition's actions have turned cultural, she said.
She shared that this translated to women dying because they were unable to access life-saving abortions or treatment for miscarriage. Gilby also noted that this was an increasingly hostile movement. She added that they really needed to bring people together from academia, civil society, and policymakers to come up with strategies and get the funding to do this because the results were health-impacting and life-threatening.
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