Training in gender and health equity analysis: promoting an intersectional approach

Meeting participants

Bogotá, Colombia, September 11, 2023 - Professionals from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and technical teams from the Ministries of Health of Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, and Venezuela have enhanced their abilities to create inclusive programs through a workshop focused on gender equity and the analysis of health disparities. The workshop, organized by PAHO in collaboration with the Government of Canada, took place in Bogotá, Colombia, from September 4th to 8th and brought together health experts for the projects "Improving Health of Women and Adolescent Girls in Situations of Vulnerability” and “Improving Equitable Access and Vaccination Coverage against COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean".

"Health has always been a fundamental issue for Canada, and we address it through a multilateral approach within the inter-American system. That's why this strong partnership with PAHO/WHO in Colombia and the region allows us to work on issues such as sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, cultural diversity, and everything related to budget execution from a gender perspective," stated Diana Muñoz, Chief International Aid Officer at the Canadian Embassy in Colombia.

During the workshop, participants acquired key skills in using the methodology for gender and intersectionality analysis to identify and address gender inequalities in health projects, plans, and programs. The methodology that was presented employs an intersectional approach that considers how interactions between various social identities, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and disability, create disadvantages and/or privileges for different population groups.

"It is important to increasingly highlight the inequities and disparities we have in our countries in terms of gender and, above all, to strengthen our understanding of how we can contribute to the fulfillment and exercise of fundamental rights, such as health," emphasized Dr. Gina Tambini Gómez, PAHO/WHO Representative in Colombia.

The workshop's objectives, which included strengthening institutional capacities to address gender inequalities in health, designing equitable initiatives, and promoting the monitoring and evaluation of these inequalities, were successfully achieved. Additionally, recommendations were developed for specific work plans to conduct gender and intersectionality analyses in health initiatives.

"Gender and equity are cross-cutting issues that we must integrate into PAHO programs if we want to achieve broader coverage and meet the proposed goals. This workshop provides us with practical tools to achieve that," added Jessie Schutt-Aine, Head of the Equity, Gender, Human Rights, and Cultural Diversity Unit at PAHO/WHO.

As part of the workshop, the host country presented its gender strategy based on local gender inequalities. According to official data, 51.6% of people living in poverty in Colombia are women. Furthermore, it is estimated that, on average, women spend over seven hours on unpaid care activities, compared to men who invest three hours. These statistics underscore the urgency of addressing these inequalities and highlight the importance of capacity-building meetings like the one held.

"In Colombia, we have made progress by developing a strategy that incorporates a gender perspective both within and outside the organization, and now, with this methodology, we can plan and operationalize to provide a timely response to women's needs," stated Dr. Evelyn Degraff, International Advisor to the Health Determinants and Life Course Unit at PAHO/WHO.

This event, which included participation from Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras, and Venezuela, marked a significant step toward promoting gender equality and equal opportunities in health in Latin America and the Caribbean. PAHO/WHO hopes that the knowledge gained during the workshop will translate into more inclusive and equitable health policies and projects in the region.

One of the outcomes of the workshop was the establishment of a community of practice among participating countries to exchange experiences in applying the methodology, sources of information on gender and intersectionality issues, and cooperation opportunities. The next steps involve developing plans for implementing the methodology within vaccine and sexual and reproductive health projects supported by the Government of Canada. The Equity, Gender, Human Rights, and Cultural Diversity Unit at PAHO/WHO will provide technical cooperation throughout the implementation.

"Hearing about the experiences of other countries has been very enriching in understanding how the experiences of different contexts can contribute to us. This workshop has allowed us to reflect on the importance of asking questions, understanding the origins of resistance to change, and having a more informed and curious conversation about how we can address the challenge," added Aimeé Dubois, Mental Health Consultant and Gender Focal Point at PAHO/WHO Ecuador.

The incorporation of a gender equality perspective in all initiatives is reaffirmed as a commitment and priority for PAHO and the Government of Canada. In this regard, efforts will continue to transform the principle of equity into practical and measurable actions that benefit people living in vulnerable situations and that incorporate and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in all their diversity in international cooperation efforts.