September 2009

GWH portal development in supporting capacity building in the South East Asia Region : Dr. Erna Surjadi, Regional Adviser on Gender, Women and Health (GWH), WHO/SEARO

The paper highlights the gender disparities in the South East Asia Region and the development of Gender, Women and Health Network to support gender and health programmes.


The new paradigm of health development has shifted the curative and rehabilitation principles into prevention and promotion of health care; it is also meant to empower people for self care to have healthy life style. Health for all is meant for everybody over ages, demography, sex and society.  However, the expectation of relation and position of men and women in the society has created gender disparities over generation from time to time. The lack of knowledge, access and opportunity of women as compared to men has brought implication to women’s health. Gender mainstreaming (GMS) in health in the South East Asia region has been implemented to address gender disparities in health, perform gender analysis and actions to support gender equality and health equity in the region. The gender responsive action is hoped to give better future for human welfare and development as well supporting health for all. However, since the root of the problem is not merely coming from the victims but the perpetrators; gender biased perspectives/ stereotypes and or environment as well; a gender sensitive health care approach is needed.

The South East Asia Region (SEAR) has challenges to motivate men as leader to implement human’s rights including women’s rights, building capacity of gender focal points to raise the gender awareness for gender equality between men and women; perform gender analysis and actions to support health equity and advocate member states to perform gender mainstreaming in health to achieve gender equality and equity in health. Unfortunately, health information system is not using sex-disaggregated data most of the time; so the gender disparities in health are not shown or being recognized by decision/ policy makers. This becomes great challenges for all countries in the region.

Gender, women and health network (GWHN)

To support promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment towards health for all as stated in Millennium Development Goals (MDG No.3, 2000) and World Health Assembly resolution (WHA60.25, 2007) on integrating gender analysis and actions into the work of WHO; human workforce is needed. However, there are limited human resources to work in gender and health; in addition the gender area is crosscutting issue so that multi-sectoral approach is considered important. The development of Gender, women and health network (GWHN) in South East Asia Region (SEAR) is expected to empower as well as to catalyze the existing infrastructure within organization to support gender and health programmes in the region and country level. Members of the GWHN are various among United Nations agencies, government, non government organization, academic and professionals where WHO plays  a role as facilitator.

The fast growing technology on information and communication has proved its good impact on society and world development; thus it is hoped it may give benefits to GWH work as well. This E-health initiative has been started in the region to give services for country and supporting link to headquarters and other regions as well. The gender, women and health network (GWHN) portal development was developed based on intention to have sharing knowledge from the distance among members; create, consolidate and maintain the network; promote theories, practical issues, adaptation models, training modules, gender programmes/ activities, partnership etc. in the area of gender & health and to save time, energy, money but increase creativity, productivity, best practices and support the GWH network.

The GWH portal will be used as distance learning for all gender focal points to fasten the process of capacity building but not necessarily eliminating the face-to face training. The material attached in the portal has function as one stop visit to GWH knowledge management for persons who have limited time or distance constraints for gaining information and communication on the area of gender, women and health.

The Gender, women and health portal knowledge management (GWH-PKM)

The GWH portal knowledge manage-ment will play a role as centre for information and communication to support knowledge management across countries, institutions, multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, WHO collaborating centers (WHOCC), available resources for similar programmes/ activities and open links to other United Nations (UN) agencies as well. Only members may access the facilities of papers, databases, resources etc; however public may read announcement, public information etc. This portal will give historical documents of GWH development landmarks, provide sharing and access to SEARO website/ others and limit the interactive query for certain documents/ information (not meant for back and fort/ long discussion on various topics).

Member facilities

In principle, any professional who has registered as member of Gender, women and health network (GWHN) in region and country level may apply as member of this GWH portal knowledge management. Thus, this portal will run based on institutionalization and not by individualization as a management tools as well to advocate the development of GWH network in the region/ country level. Professionals who had attend any GWH WHO/SEARO meeting are automatically registered in the member list; unless the country has put up updating or objection to the list for accepted reason.

The GWH portal has been introduced in the Regional consultation meeting on multi-sectoral approach for GWH work, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 2008. Ten out of 11 countries in SEAR (Bangladesh, Bhutan, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor Leste) have supported and confirmed the need. Nepal at that moment had country restriction due to election period. GWH WHO headquarters, Geneva was also present and supported. The trial process for GWH portal is being accessed by participants in Colombo to get link to the temporary server at WHO/SEARO which is based in New Delhi, India. Participants could read formal documents such as resolutions, published paper as well as tools for gender sensitivity etc. from the distance. The GWH portal knowledge management has been considered as promising tool to support capacity building through gender and E health development.

GWH-PKM is aimed to distribute immediately any important report and findings for the GWHN.

Report and Documents sharing

Material for e-Learning
Members may upload new published document and the secretariat in the regional office will confirm only after receiving the formal approval from sources. In the case it links to country website; the responsibility is given to country secretariat. The GWH portal will not receive un-published document and will receive announcement only from certified users. It is hoped that users will get faster distance learning on gender and health to support the GWH missions.

GWH-PKM is also aimed to capture and share GWH events and important features to support gender equality and health equity in the SEA Region. Picture is a thousand words; gallery of photos and other images is developed to be shared within the GWHN. These could act as stimulant for other members for best practices and resource mobilization as well among the networks.

Historical events and best practices
GWH-PKM is aimed also to advocate the development of GWH Network in the region and country level; thus the media has given also information about the related institutions and open opportunities to be in the GWHN through GWH portal knowledge management in SEAR.  Information and communication are considered important to create a bond among networks to support the GWH mission in eliminating gender disparities in health.

In consideration to the fast growing technology, WHO/SEARO and GWHN may get advantage by this portal development for sharing scientific findings to eliminate gender-based violence, increase collaborative works with men/ boys for gender equality to support family advancement, distance suitable justification for decision/ policy makers to support world development, especially in gender sensitive health care.

GWH networks information
This GWH portal knowledge management is planned to be fully implemented in year 2010 through finalization of the portal and training for region and country facilitators. It is hoped further supporting the process of  gender capacity building and knowledge management development on policy, strategy and tools for gender mainstreaming in health through distance learning as well as sharing experiences for best practices, constraints and challenges among gender focal points and its stakeholders in the SEAR countries. This could be best supplement to face to face training which still needed to have alive-discussion and proper transfer of knowledge in gender and health. It is planned further to be linked also to country’s websites and headquarters’; so that it may empowered the GWHN within the global development on gender education and capacity building.

It is hoped that this GWH portal development could also increase member-states collaborative works and GWH networks (GWHN) communication on gender and health to support gender equality and health equity in the South East Asia Region.

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