The journey towards sustainable development requires the empowerment of women. The World Bank describes women’s empowerment as "the expansion of the freedom of choices and action, which could increase women’s authority and control over resources and decisions regarding their lives." This "freedom of choices and actions"—determined by both community and individual agency—impacts women’s health outcomes by enabling adequate nutrition, access to health resources, control over maternal and reproductive health, and access to finances, among other factors.
The following issues present significant barriers to women’s health empowerment:
- Lack of appropriate infrastructure and investments, restricting women’s health choices.
- Social norms and institutions that prevent or impede choice for women, whether with their consent or through coercion.
- Policy context that is unable to provide an integrated approach towards women’s health empowerment.
Complete empowerment can be achieved only by providing access to health services at every stage of women’s lives. While there is no magic pill, the emergence of new technologies enables developing countries to reach higher levels of health empowerment for women in a shorter time with minimal additional spend. This paper aims to demonstrate how policymakers can make crucial interventions, aided by technology, to foster women’s health empowerment and social justice. We present women’s health empowerment as a composite measure including resources, agency, and outcomes.
Factors affecting women’s health empowerment:
- Rise in income - We have established that economic growth has a positive effect on women’s health outcomes. One effect of rising incomes is that households that move out of poverty or low-income levels do not need to ration resources between their children according to gender.
- Investment in health infrastructure - Public investments in healthcare facilities improve access to care and overall health outcomes.
- Education - Education improves the position of women in the family because it provides them with knowledge, skills and resources to make life choices that enhance their welfare.
- Employment - Previous research studies reveal that increased opportunities for women in the labor market translate into women gaining greater control over their health status.
- Reproductive Choice - A research study analyzed the rollout of a large-scale family planning campaign across Colombia in the 1960s and 1970s and found that access to contraception delayed the time at which women began childbearing, which in turn increased their education levels as well as employment rate.
- Right to property - Women's right to property and related legal rights are inferior to those of men in many countries. In most of the Middle East and North Africa, 50 percent of South Asian nations, 34 percent of sub-Saharan African countries, and 25 percent of East Asian and Pacific countries, inheritance laws either disfavor or altogether exclude women.
- Political agency - The right to vote and a greater representation of women in parliament and government positions have led to improved health outcomes.