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Learning from the pandemic to better fulfil the right to health

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The COVID-19 pandemic has concentrated minds about the resilience of our health care systems and it is challenging member states’ health policies and their effectiveness. In addition, doctors, medical staff and health care staff are under unprecedented pressure. Do we have sufficient medical facilities and supplies to respond to the emergency even when strict containment measures are in place? Can our human right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health be fulfilled under the current circumstances? Are health care workers sufficiently protected and can they manage the immense responsibility placed on their shoulders? In the midst of this tragic pandemic we cannot pretend to have all the answers to these existential questions. But we can highlight some of the fundamentals of a health care system which seeks to meet the needs of the entire population and which builds resilience in order to respond to public health emergencies.

It is obvious that all people have the right to the protection of their health against the pandemic. Universal health coverage creates the basis for this. Broader social protection measures are necessary to address entrenched health inequalities. A focus on gender plays a central role in effective responses. The development of inclusive and resilient health care systems, which is likely to take place under conditions of renewed austerity, should eschew the negative effects on the right to health experienced during the economic crisis of the previous decade.

Universal health coverage

The fulfilment of the right to health is often viewed as an issue about access to health care. During my visit to Greece in 2018, I observed the negative impact of long-term austerity measures on the availability and affordability of health care. I urged the authorities to remove obstacles to accessing universal medical coverage and to increase their efforts to recruit health care staff. The achievement of universal health coverage is one of the targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), universal coverage means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It includes the full range of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

Efforts to achieve universal health coverage received a boost on 10 October 2019 with the UN General Assembly’s adoption of a high-level political declaration “Universal health coverage: moving together to build a healthier world”, following its approval by world leaders in September. The declaration recognises that health contributes to the promotion and protection of human rights and makes a commitment to covering one billion additional people by 2023 with quality essential health services, with a view to covering all people by 2030. The declaration stresses that strong and resilient health systems, capable of reaching people in vulnerable situations, can ensure pandemic preparedness and effective responses to any outbreak.

It is significant that the declaration specifically covers mental health and well-being as an essential component of universal health coverage and stresses the need to fully respect the human rights of people experiencing mental health problems. Mental health professionals have pointed out that the current pandemic is resulting in a parallel epidemic of fear, anxiety, and depression. The highly stressful environment and the containment measures taken out of necessity place a significant burden on the mental health of the general population. Existing mental health conditions may also worsen further, and opportunities for regular outpatient visits are narrowing. People treated in psychiatric institutions find themselves in an especially vulnerable situation, with diminishing access to care and additional risks of infection. Public Health England has issued detailed guidance on preserving mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Civil society representatives have expressed concern that the UN Declaration does not in fact reaffirm the right to health as an entitlement and that it leaves too much discretion to governments in determining the extent of universal health coverage with reference to “nationally determined sets”. Measures to address the needs of migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons and indigenous peoples have also been qualified to be applied “in line with national contexts and priorities”. In addition, NGOs have highlighted funding gaps for universal coverage and the essential role of public health systems in meeting the health care needs of vulnerable populations. It is crucial that the current gaps in universal coverage are not allowed to become obstacles to a comprehensive response to the coronavirus pandemic and the availability of care for all.

In Europe, the unaffordability of health care has been an important barrier to the full realisation of universal health coverage. Significant out-of-pocket payments can result in unmet needs or financial hardship for service users. According to the WHO, this may be the case in the majority of European countries. In my 2019 report on Armenia, I made a connection between low public health expenditure and the difficulties experienced by older people in obtaining specialised treatment and palliative care. During my visit to Estonia in 2018, I noted that 1 in 4 persons above 65 in poor health could not afford care. Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) has pointed out that many people belonging to disadvantaged groups may also face issues about health insurance entitlement.

Health inequalities and social determinants of health   

The concerns about the gaps in the reach of universal health coverage in Europe are related to health inequalities between and within countries, and the broader issues of poverty and social determinants of health. The right to health is closely interconnected with other social rights such as the rights to social security and protection, and the right to housing. Since the WHO Constitution defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, it is unlikely that universal health coverage alone would be effective in addressing health needs in a sustainable manner. A broader social rights approach is required.

The landmark health equity status report by WHO Europe from 2019 reveals that health inequalities in Europe have remained the same or have worsened over the last 10-15 years. Although average life expectancy across the WHO European region of 52 countries has increased for both women (82 years) and men (76 years), significant health inequities remain between social groups. Women’s life expectancy is cut by up to 7 years and men’s by up to 15 years if they find themselves among the most disadvantaged groups. Regional inequalities in life expectancy continue to persist or worsen within most countries. It is also worrying that health gaps between socioeconomic groups increase with age.

The report makes a highly useful contribution in identifying social determinants and drivers of the health gap and in so doing maps means of improving the situation. In addition to universal access to health care, social protection, housing, education and employment are significant factors in improving health status. The report recommends integrated solutions based on a combination of interventions. Remarkably, it argues that the most cost-effective means of closing the health divide is increased investment in housing and community amenities.

Unfortunately, affordable housing is in short supply in Europe and the overall spending by governments on social housing stood at only 0.66% of the European GDP in 2017, as I noted in an article in January this year. In December 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, sounded the alarm about the current global housing crisis and published guidelines for the practical implementation of the right to adequate housing.

In March, she pointed out that housing had become the front-line defence against the coronavirus as governments relied on people to stay home to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The Rapporteur expressed special concern at homeless people and those living in grossly inadequate housing, often in overcrowded conditions or lacking access to water and sanitation, making them particularly vulnerable to the virus. It is obvious that homeless people should not be penalised for not being able to stay at home during the pandemic. In Scotland, local authorities have made unoccupied student flats and hotel rooms available to rough sleepers in the current situation. A similar positive initiative was undertaken by the UK government in England. Long-term housing solutions for homeless people remain necessary. They will make our societies more resilient against crises and pandemics.  

Gender-responsive approaches to health and equality

Gender is another determinant of health. The differences in health status and needs between women and men are not simply related to biological differences but to the impact of societal gender norms and stereotypes. The WHO has pointed out that factors affecting notions of masculinity and femininity and the way gender roles are defined in societies can have a massive effect on the health of men and women. We need gender-responsive approaches to health which take gender norms and inequalities into account and act to reduce their harmful effects. Progress towards gender equality should have a positive impact on the health of both women and men. Ultimately, gender-responsive approaches based on equality can help transform the gender roles, norms and structures which act as barriers to achieving healthy lives and well-being for everybody.  

The higher average life expectancy of women in comparison with men is usually referred to as the “mortality advantage”. 70% of the European population over 85 are women. However, the additional years are often accompanied with ill health or disability. Women in Europe live on average 10 years in ill health while the figure for men is 6 years. The WHO report on women’s health and well-being in Europe highlights cardiovascular diseases, mental health problems, gender-based violence and cyber-bullying as prevalent health issues among women. Breast, cervical, lung and ovarian cancers pose significant burdens to women’s health. Women consider themselves less healthy than men and report more illness. They are less represented in clinical trials making it more difficult to determine safe dosage ranges and possible side effects of medicines for women. Sexual and reproductive health is another area where gender-specific and human rights-based responses are necessary.    

Norms around masculinity and socio-economic factors are related to men’s risk-taking behaviours and underuse of health services across many European countries. The WHO report on men’s health and well-being in Europe points out that men have unhealthier smoking practices and dietary patterns, heavier alcohol drinking habits and higher rates of injuries and interpersonal violence than women. 86% of all male deaths can be attributed to noncommunicable diseases and injuries, especially cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Raised blood pressure is a leading risk factor with a higher prevalence than in women. Suicide rates among 30-49-year-old men are five times higher than among women of the same age. Yet men report better subjective health than women and use health services less often than them.

It is reported that the coronavirus has gender-differential effects. The fatality rate for men appears to be up to twice as high as for women. Although we do not yet know the cause for this, it has been suggested that both biological factors and gendered risk behaviours, such as smoking, may be relevant. Gender matters in responses to the pandemic, too. Social distancing or lockdowns at home bear a specific danger to women’s health in terms of a higher risk of domestic violence. Many women victims of violence may experience additional difficulties in seeking help in shelters which have closed down or decide not to seek medical attention for fear of contagion. Women’s exposure to the coronavirus is aggravated by the fact that they are in the clear majority among health care staff and as informal and family carers. It is essential that the prioritisation of the availability of health services during the pandemic does not discriminate on the ground of gender. This also applies to access to sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion.

The WHO European region is the first WHO region to implement strategies on the health and well-being of both women and men in a coordinated way and following a human rights-based approach. Ireland was the first country in Europe to prepare a health policy specifically targeting men already in 2008. Health policies which address both women’s and men’s health in gender-specific ways through the different stages of life are mutually reinforcing and highlight gender as a central determinant of health.

Way out from the crisis

The pandemic is a danger to all of us but there are many groups of people who are in an especially vulnerable position or highly exposed to it. Older persons find themselves in a high-risk group and inter-generational solidarity is now in high demand. Many persons with disabilities rely on the support of others in their daily activities and the continuity and safety of such support must be guaranteed during the crisis. People living in institutions or detention face a high risk of infection and should be afforded protective measures. I have highlighted the situation of immigration detainees and prisoners specifically. Homeless people are extremely vulnerable as stated earlier. The living conditions of many Roma remain inadequate with limited access to water and sanitation. A great number of refugees and migrants find themselves in a similar situation.  

In the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all population groups should be able to access health care, including medicines and vaccines, without discrimination. Any absolute necessity for prioritisation in terms of limited resources must be based on sound medical evidence and the individual urgency of the required treatment. Everyone’s human dignity must be respected without putting into question the fundamental equality of every person’s life. Focused efforts are required to preserve mental health during the crisis and to ensure the continuity and safety of treatment.  

Positive measures should be applied to mitigate the risks of the pandemic on the health of groups who are particularly vulnerable or exposed to the coronavirus. Such measures should be effective and proportionate and could include, for example, enhanced social support, provision of adequate housing, access to water and sanitation, deinstitutionalisation, anticipated release from custody, facilitated access to protective equipment and coronavirus testing, provision of additional means of communication and the availability of information in accessible formats, among others. Gender-responsiveness should be considered as a regular aspect of the means to counter the pandemic.

I urge governments to alleviate the enormous pressure health professionals, the majority of whom are women, are facing in their work against the pandemic. Their safety at work is crucial and they must have access to effective protective equipment, regular coronavirus screening and antibody testing, and psychosocial support. Health workers and their families should be entitled to childcare arrangements and social protection measures to cover their work-related hazards. Any extraordinary care duties for health professionals not in active service must be necessary and accompanied by strict safeguards for ensuring their safety and well-being.

In the long run, member states should build resilient health care systems which cater to the needs of the entire population and enable robust responses to health emergencies. The achievement of universal and affordable health coverage, including for mental health, is critical for this endeavour. No one should be left behind in health care entitlement. There is a special need to promote deinstitutionalisation, outpatient services and primary health care.     

I urge governments to apply a gender-responsive approach in the implementation of health policies. They should identify and address gender-based health needs and aim to change unhealthy behaviours which are related to harmful gender stereotypes. It is necessary to unleash the potential of health promotion and protection as an effective tool for improving gender equality for both women and men.

Widening inequalities in health status must be addressed through a broader social rights approach. As people’s health and well-being are closely related to the social determinants of health, it is necessary to promote health through integrated approaches which combine universal coverage with protection against poverty, the eradication of homelessness, inclusive education and training, and access to employment. Focused efforts should be made to implement adequate, affordable and long-term housing solutions.

Council of Europe

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New Social Compact

Natural Indications and solutions of weakened immunity within rampancy of Covid

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Worldwide different approaches have been taken to restrict the Covid-19 virus. Lockdowns have been immensely attributed to reducing the spread of Covid-19 almost everywhere on earth. Since last year lockdown bars people to visit doctors unless there is such a health emergency. Sometimes clinics and health care centers even stood as the hotspot for virus spread, turning the public extra cautious to visit those. People mostly remain confined in the home – “stay home stay safe”, “work from home”, “self-isolating”, “quarantine” are the most adhered phrases for masses irrespective of the boundary of nations, which in turn increases the relevance of self-reliant health care system.

Given the need for the pandemic time’s caution, here lay the refreshing facts to maintain or turn one healthy.  The most efficient tracking system to resist any harmful alien component lays within the human body itself i.e. immune system or immunity. What if someone is empowered to check body immunity except visiting doctors, just with a few basic indications? The solutions that predict humans weakened immunity may caution humans to take better immunity management measures.

In humans, the bodily immune system protects the human body from viral, bacterial, fungal, or protozoan attacks. It defends the lethal pathogens to enter the human body. Sometimes, when a virus succeeds in entering the body, the strong immune system recognizes and manages the capacity to neutralize the same, making the human body even stronger and capable to resist anything odd from outside.

If a person often falls sick or feels down, the reason behind may be the weakened immune system of that person. So someone needs to know the signs that indicate a defective and weakened immune system which calls urgent lifestyle changes.

Persistent Digestive Disorders

Around 70% of the bodily immune system resides in the inward of the body. The bodily inward bacteria fight the pathogen and enhance immune health. These inward bacteria stimulate the growth of T- cells or Army cells, which are in charge of identifying self and non- self-cells and tissues.

Lower counts of these symbiotic bacteria in the human body can increase the risk of viruses, chronic inflammation, and even autoimmune disorders. Due to which the human body might suffer from the frequent occurrence of diarrhea, gas, or constipation.

Solution:

The food and beverages humans eat and drink decide most about digestive health and the balance of good and bad bacteria in the inward of the human body. Lessen quotient of intake of processed, saturated fats and artificial sugar can reduce stomach ailments. Including fiber-rich, proteinaceous, fresh-green, and nutrient-rich diet in daily intake supports the growth of good bacteria. Having an ample amount of probiotics and fermented food contain live and active beneficial bacteria.

Delayed Healing of Wounds

It is the immune resistance that enables the wound inflamed to prevent infections, growing new cells to form over the wound, and formation of scar tissue to heal the wound. However, if someone’s immune health is not strong enough; it will restrict the regeneration of new cells making it difficult for someone’s wounds to heal.

Solution: The immune system in the blood is meant to protect the wounds, control damage, and allow regeneration of the new cells. A balanced level of Vitamin D, C, and zinc trend towards better wound healing. The human body needs collagen from Vit. C and other wound healing supplements from Vit. D and zinc. In addition, the wound must be dressed and wounds heal faster if kept warm. Exposing a wound might slow down the healing process by allowing microbial generation on it.

Frequent Cold, cough, and fever

As per a few recognized research reports, adults on an average face about two to three occurrences of cold and allied symptoms each year. But if someone suffers from more frequent turns of cold and allied symptoms, then it indicates a weakened immune system. This might be because of the person’s compromised lifestyle and adherence to hygiene. When someone doesn’t follow hygiene practices, he/she is responsible for creating an environment that allows recurrent infections like cold to stage up.

Solution:

Include healthy hygiene practices in your daily routine that will restrict the viral particles from entering the body or building up or spreading easily.

Smoker’s Chain

If someone is a smoker or chain smoker (smokes relatively constantly), he needs to understand that smoking directly affects the cells of the immune system and causes damage to the tiny hairs of the respiratory tract that normally help to clear out germs carrying mucus and debris.

Solution:

Smokers of any sort must quit smoking because the chemical found in cigarettes weakens the immune system.

Insomnia

If someone finds it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or be compelled to wake up too early and not able to get back to sleep is certainly in the grasp of insomnia. Insomnia chronically makes humans lethargic and susceptive to several diseases. Prolonged insomnia or inability to fall asleep may completely disbalance the human immune system and in turn, increases the risk of being sick. There are proven records that “healthy sleep” stands as the best way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and there is a prominent connection between sleep and proper functioning of the immune system.

Solution:

The conditions necessary for good sleep, called “sleep hygiene,” are needed to get properly maintained. There are some basic rules to get proper sleep like setting up a healthy bedtime routine i.e. go to bed and wake up every day at the same time, sleep in well-ventilated rooms and arrange circulation of natural air in the room, maintain the temperature, air humidity and pollution of the sleeping room, make sleeping space sound, noise and electromagnetic fields free.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

Even after having enough sleep, someone may experience unexplained fatigue and relapsing exhaustion. Sometimes those may certainly point towards something intense. Since the immune system is directly proportionate to the energy level, it implies that the body is trying to conserve energy to enhance the immune system and fuel immune energy during the battle with the traumatic situation.

Solution:

Yoga and exercise give a soothing effect to the heart and improves blood circulation across the body increasing the energy flow in the body. Those not only strengthen our nervous system but also stimulate the thyroid gland allowing fatigue and exhaustion to go away.

Anxiety and Stress

When someone is stressed, his/her body releases corticosteroids that suppress the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes in his/her body. Stressed and anxious behavior can lead to unhealthy coping tactics such as smoking and alcohol consumption. stressful times.

Eat a balanced diet and follow a healthy lifestyle including yoga and exercise in your routine. “Laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter relaxes the endothelium of blood vessels to expand, increasing the blood flow. Laughter generates vigorous breathing, which in turn sends more oxygenated blood through the body ultimately reducing stress hormones in the brain.

Solution:

A severely stressed person is recommended to see a psychiatrist. Emotional and social support from family and friends can help a person recover from

Amnesia

Research has begun at the University of California Irvine, on how the lockdown has affected people’s memories. There is the report that even some amazing people who usually remember events like buying a cinema ticket 20 years earlier because they have highly superior autobiographical memory are finding they are forgetting things.  The factor which mostly contributes to amnesia or memory loss is isolation. Lack of social contact affects the brain adversely and the effect of isolation is most serious among those who already experiencing memory difficulties and for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, levels of seclusion even determine the course of the disease. Though everyone has not felt lonely during the pandemic then there are other factors like insomnia, exhaustion, anxiety which contributing to amnesia. Office of National Statistics in the UK has found that rates of depression have doubled during the lockdown. Both depression and anxiety are known to have an impact on memory and may have a considerable role behind amnesia. 

Solution

Living a healthy, socially connected lifestyle and keeping the mind active through artistic and creative acts may be a way forward to get rid of amnesia

In regular practice walking, even within the confinement of home, will bring the human’s brain back to attention while moving makes a positive difference in memory. Do you have to sit at your desk for every meeting? Or do you work from home? If it’s a phone call within, then walk in the room or balcony sitting on a chair instead. Make sure that weekdays and the weekends are different enough and do not merge them into one sort of activity. Writing and noting down more frequently and practicing Yoga can help lock downbound people to cope up with amnesia. 

Disturbed menstrual cycle for women

A quarter of women are reported suffering from irregular periods. Reasons behind may be cumulative effects of lockdown including stress, anxiety, amnesia, overeating, etc. Most of the women find it difficult to work from home managing children without any domestic help. Financial crises even concern women the most causing adverse effect on their menstrual cycle. The complete isolation and static living create this irregularity.

Solution

Exercise, healthy diet, following hygiene, Self-care, cooperation, and backing of family members may relax women allowing them to enjoy a natural menstrual cycle.

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You could have been black too: Describing racism in Venezuela

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“Black woman! . . . if you were white and had straight hair / My mother told me in distress not to marry a black woman, because when she’s asleep, she looks like a coiled snake / A black woman with a big nose doesn’t cook for me, because she hides the mouthfuls in her nostrils”

The world is in the severe grip of Corona virus, countries are experiencing recession & economic downfall, millions of people are starving vanishing, and environment is abating.  All this together, alarms world for the worsening future that might welcome us tomorrow. But still the capitalist class of developed nations is indulged in the debate of US/them. On the basis of primordial traits individuals are classified as either in-group or out-group. Consequently hatred, animosity and xenophobia is increasing generation by generation towards the minorities around the world. 

Similar is the situation of afro-Venezuelan community around the world and predominantly in Venezuela. The afro-descendant group is target of hate speech, discrimination and racism. They are been called by various names such as vermin, mulatoo, barefoot, rabble, uncultured and inferior; mainly due to their afro-descendant identity. However the Venezuelan government denies the presence of racism, by asserting itself a racial democracy. A land which mixed heritage, embraces its café con leech or coffee with milk characteristic with pride.

 History of afro-descendants in Venezuela dates back to 16th century, this era was significantly underlined for colonization by Spanish settlers. As the land was rich in natural resources supplementary workforces were brought from the third world countries. General belief system of elite of was “blacks have no soul and have very little intellectual capacity, so better if they perform task such as slavery”. This is how African people first came to Venezuela, in order to work in the coca plantation. But no one was aware of the fact, this increased immigration; at one point of time might leads to numerically upsurge of afro-descendants at home. In 1979, customary practice of African slave trade was abolished, but till this time African community made almost 60% of Venezuela’s population.

Afterwards to avoid the racial discrimination and hatred towards minorities. The Venezuelan nation adopted its mestizaje ideology and inculcated racial democracy. Which states that everyone is a mixed heritage, miscegenation. These elementary ideologies of Venezuela contradicts the presence of racism or racial divide in country. But realistically speaking racism is there, and unfortunately it is been masked due the mestizaje ideology. Closing the wounds of racism by making everyone a mixed.

The Racist treatment of afro-Venezuelan community is quite evident from their economic exclusion, social and political deprivation, hate speech directed towards them in popular music and lastly from their treatment in media.  In short the state has been narrow-minded in providing social, economic, political and cultural values to its non-white majority.

Systematic exclusion of afro-Venezuelans from the economic system and job opportunities intensify the grievances of Afro-Venezuelans. Lack job opportunities for blacks, and fortunately if there are some jobs; even in those places they are driven out of their offices or are target of continued racism. Quoting the example of former president of Hugo Chavez Perez who was been called as Negro and monkey due to his afro-descendant identity. Another case of discrimination was heralded was an ice cream parlor franchise, situated in Caracas published a digital advertisement asking for hiring of employees. But the job criteria confused people, as it represented a clear discriminatory stance towards non-whites, requesting employees with ‘white skin’ and a height of 1,70m.  Representation of blacks in media is also pitiful. There are only a few black faces in media, anchor person, television celebrities even the Miss Venezuela are invariably white or off white. It also causes whitening of popular culture; and a stigmatization in society those who are whiter are better off & socially acceptable.

Social grievances of afro-Venezuelans are evident from the customary practices of Non-documentation, denial of birth certificates, denial of nationality, and lack of information on social security issues; such as access to pensions by older people for almost past 40 years. Apart from that only references to black people in school texts is of historical aside during slavery. Further stereotyping afro-Venezuelans and perpetuating racism. This is not only wicked but alarming, how a state can constantly discriminate its citizens. How a group of people can be denied of their fundamental human rights by the states and authorities.

Political grievances of Afro-Venezuelans are in the form of exclusionary nationalist ideology, African descendants are deprived of self-right, freedom of expression, self-determination, political and human rights. Taking into account the recruitment procedure of blacks in army, was also biased and in the interest of elite. As it that would provide elite the man power for army.

The core of the problem lies in the problematic group histories of Afro-Venezuelans as they being a product of slave trade. Historically deprived of rights and treated unfairly further generates the concept of degraded community. Labelling them as the one who lack soul, not born to live rather to practice slavery as lack in intellectual wellbeing further generates dishonored sentiments and exacerbates racism. The problem cannot be solved, as long as it is considered a problem of black community only. Discrimination against any community reflects humanity at its worse, and the norm keeps on expanding in other parts of the world as well. Therefore it is necessary to consider racism a problem of humanity. Strict measures must be taken to root out racism, to help humanity. If today you are silent on the matter, it means you are showing consent towards racism. So speak up against racism, if you think it’s not right. Otherwise it will become a norm.

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Educating Women in Pakistan: A Necessity For National Development

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Photo: UNICEF/PAKISTAN/Asad Zaidi

Education is fundamental to the success of any nation. Almost every developed nation recognizes its importance and lays great emphasis on its availability to every human being.

Education brings out the meaning of life and enables a person to make sense of the world around him. While on the other hand, an illiterate person fails to comprehend the essence of life and lives in ignorance.

Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world has grappled with the grave situation of illiteracy almost from the time of its existence and has one of the lowest literary rates on the continent. To put it narrowly, approximately 40% of its female population has not even received education at all. Thus, the major chunk of its population remains backward, which otherwise if educated could have proven to be a major source of social and economic development.

Women’s education is inextricably linked to the well-being of society. A society comprises of both male and female members, and equally needs the contribution of women nearly as much as of men in maintaining and regulating its functions. However, women in Pakistan face great challenges in accessing education and are confined to play domestic roles only. Also, certain societies consider the education of women as taboo. This results in gender inequality and social disparity which ultimately impedes the growth of a nation.

Women, as a child bearer, not only holds great responsibility of proper upbringing of the child but also of a whole generation. This aspect can be underscored by the African proverb which says,

“If you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”

Therefore, an increase in the education of women can profoundly improve human development outcomes such as child survival, health, and schooling. Education can bring phenomenal change in women’s life as it increases their confidence and raises their status in family and society. It lends her voice which she can use to advocate her rights and also helps her to participate in political and social sciences. Pakistan cannot afford to neglect the education of women if it wants to modernize itself and until or unless its female population remains uneducated, it will continue to undermine the ideals of democracy that it so cherishes. There is no doubt that Pakistan is a country whose youth is imbued with great talents and if given adequate knowledge they can properly channel this talent to the country’s advantage. This can only be achieved if gender disparities in literacy and education attainment in rural and urban areas of Pakistan are removed.

Women are also regarded as the weaker segment of society but through education, they can change their weakness into strength. It is also seen that women’s education has a positive relationship with women’s labor force participation rate which can play a significant role in reducing poverty and can contribute to sustainable growth in a developing country like Pakistan itself. Therefore, the government should invest in the education sector and especially in women’s education. This should be on its priority list as it is necessary for national development and progress.

Hence, concrete steps should be taken to empower women by granting them equality and education so that Pakistan can set itself upon the path of success.

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