Ask 7: Gender Equality and Women’s Rights as Drivers of Health

On 23 September 2019 a historic United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) will be held at the UN in New York City, titled “Universal Health Coverage: Moving together to build a healthier world”. WHO estimates that around half the world’s population (in low, middle- and high- income countries) lacks full coverage for essential health services. This UN HLM therefore has the potential to change the health and lives of millions of people, the majority of them women, who cannot currently afford quality health services. It also has the potential to improve the lives of the women who form the majority of the global health and social care workforce and currently deliver health services to around 5 billion people.

This meeting is a critical opportunity for the Women in Global Health community to advocate at global and national levels for gender equality and women’s rights to be central in UHC.

Our message is simple: UHC will not be achieved anywhere without addressing gender equality, women’s rights and the role of women in the global health workforce.

In preparation for the UN HLM Multi-stakeholder Meeting on 29 April, and the UN HLM on 23 September, UHC2030 has issued 6 Key Asks to Member States from the UHC Movement: UHC2030 Key Asks Summary

ASK 1: Ensure political leadership beyond health – Commit to achieve UHC for healthy lives and well being for all at all stages, as a social contract.

ASK 2: Leave no one behind – Pursue equity in access to quality health services with financial protection.

ASK 3: Regulate and legislate – Create a strong, enabling regulatory and legal environment responsive to people’s needs

ASK 4: Uphold quality of care – Build quality health systems that people and communities trust.

ASK 5: Invest more, invest better – Sustain public financing and harmonize health investments.

ASK 6: Move together – Establish multi-stakeholder mechanisms for engaging the whole of society for a healthier world.

And Women in Global Health propose

ASK 7: Gender Equality and Women’s Rights as Drivers of Health - Commit to gender equality and women’s rights (including SRHR) as foundational principles for UHC.

Women in Global Health support and endorse the UHC2030 6 Key Asks above and have added the complementary 7th Ask (detailed below) since gender equality and women’s rights are so critical to the achievement of UHC that they merit special mention and action. We encourage all our partners to call on Heads of State and national governments to adopt the 7 Asks and take action to accelerate progress towards UHC.

What is our 7th Ask? Commit to gender equality and women’s rights (including SRHR) as foundational principles for UHC.

Extensive evidence demonstrates that gender equality and women’s rights are critical drivers of health, well being and socio-economic development. Men and women have different health needs throughout the life course and marginalised women and girls are amongst the hardest to reach with health services. Addressing gender equality in health systems’ design and delivery and in the health workforce will determine the success of UHC.


By 2023 governments should:

  1. Convene a reference group of women of different ages, races, ethnicities, gender and other social identities to advise on design and delivery of UHC packages of services and

  2. Adopt national health workforce plans that address gender inequity.

Our 7th Ask:

  • Prioritise the health needs of the most marginalised women and girls in UHC design and delivery, taking an intersectional approach to leaving no one behind (including youth, ethnicity, class, disability, older women and any other marginalized identity according to social context).

  • Address in UHC design and delivery the gender determinants of health that drive risk and ill health based on socially assigned gender roles for all genders (women/girls, men/boys, trans, non-binary).

  • Ensure that UHC programmes and policies are inclusive of SRHR interventions and based on principles of gender equality and equity in access.

  • Acknowledge the role of women as 70% of the health workforce and ensure decent work for female health workers that protects their fundamental rights, provides a fair income, and ensures a safe work environment free from violence, harassment and discrimination.

  • Integrate the unpaid health and social care work done by women into the formal labour market and end the practice of engaging women as unpaid and underpaid community health workers.

  • Enable women from diverse groups to be represented in equal numbers to men in UHC design, decision making and monitoring from community to global levels.

Read more about gender and UHC here.

WGH is hosting a Virtual Town Hall on Tuesday 23 April, from 11:00-11:30 EST, to facilitate a discussion on gender and UHC, and to collect feedback and questions on the 7th Ask.

You can join the meeting at (Access Code: 924-723-517) and submit any question, comments or feedback at

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