Gender & Health – WHO Focus



As per the constitution of the World Health Organization, “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”. Furthermore, “the extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health”.


Public health services are meant for all people regardless of their gender and economic or social status. However, the world is increasingly becoming aware of differences in the men as compared with women. These differences relate to social, economic, cultural and political factors or situations, and they determine the health status of the two genders. The above-mentioned differences in the condition of men and women are referred to as gender perspectives which enable from certain ideologies of people based on social and cultural expectations rather than on physical equalities; they refer to learned attitudes and behaviours that characterize people of one sex or the other (Benokraitis, Nijole V, New Yersey, 1996).


The traditional gender roles and stereotypes are the result of patriarchal cultures in which men are regarded as superior to women; this has contributed to gender inequality that also leads to health inequality between men and women. The world is changing due to globalization. Therefore, the traditional stereotypes of men and women, especially those related to their health status should also be expected to change.


There is a general lack of understanding of the gender perspective with regard to the implementation of basic human rights. In this context, we must consider the poor health status of women arising from various factors, such as: maternal mortality; domestic violence; female trafficking; and sexually transmitted infections. Such poor health status of women is caused by the lack of decision making power among women with regard to their economic, educational and social status which is prevalent in certain sections of the population in Sri Lanka.


The current era of globalization is expected to remove the traditional disadvantages faced by women through relevant policies and programmes aimed at ensuring health equality and justice for all people.


Improving the health of women of all ages and to contribute to the achievement of health equity.


To support MoH:

*      in the development of policies, strategies and interventions that effectively address high-priority and neglected health issues of under privileged women throughout the lifespan,

*      in the creation of a body of evidence on the impact of gender on health and

*      in the development of tools, norms and standards to improve gender responsiveness of health interventions and promote gender equity in health.


Strategic Approaches

*     Enhancement of knowledge of under privileged / underserved subjects on the importance of health and well-being of women and of ways in which gender affects different aspects of women's and men's health through capacity building at central & peripheral level;

*     Development, testing and dissemination of tools, guidelines, norms and standards with the aim of strengthening policy and health-sector response to selected issues mainly GBV;

*     Collaboration and consultation with other technical departments, and other partners including UN agencies to ensure consistency in work on gender and health and specifically on the health of specific group of women e.g. migrant women workers.


Expected Results

*     Improved capacity of programme managers and health care providers

*     Standards, training modules, information tools and guidelines on specific women's health issues produced and used to support MoH in the formulation and implementation programmes and in monitoring progress

*     Evidence-based reviews and collection of new data on the impact of gender on health and on specific women's health issues carried out by MoH in collaboration with WHO, with information so generated disseminated and applied in advocacy and policy

*     Tools and guidelines developed and processes in place to facilitate incorporation of gender considerations in the technical programmes implementation

*     New initiatives for the future undertaken incorporating gender perspectives in all technical programmes, with results, analyses and lessons learnt documented and disseminated.

Gender-Based Violence (GBV)

*      Download Factsheet on GBV



*      International Women’s Day 2010

*      International Women’s Day 2011