Applying gender equality and inclusion in Neglected Tropical Disease interventions

effect:hope's Every Child Thrives program helped counter the effects of soil-transmitted helminths for over 2 million children in Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire. This project combined deworming treatment and vitamin A supplementation for children under 5 years old in areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya from March 2016 to March 2020. 

Together with our partners, we conducted a community-based gender analysis at the start of the Every Child Thrives project  to better understand the local context and situation. We used the findings to develop the Gender Equality Strategy for the project. The strategy identified the gender and inclusion barriers that could be addressed within the scope of the project. 

The Gender Equality Strategy focused on:

  • Promoting equality of girls and boys, including children with disability, in households.
  • Empowering women to be more involved in decision-making process when it comes to health.
  • Promoting men’s involvement in their children’s health. 
  • Providing equal health services to girls and boys, including children with disability.
  • Improving the collection of demographic data (for age and sex). 

Including gender and inclusion into the programming helped the local Ministries of Health to consider gender differences when delivering health services and make them more equitable for girls, boys, women and men. 

As a result of following the Gender Equality Strategy, our partners were able to achieve important steps toward gender equity. 

  • Gender equality and inclusion training for health professionals and project staff to improve their understanding of these concepts and how to apply them in health services. 
  • Empower the local Ministries of Health to own the Gender equality strategy and implementation plans.
  • Developed reusable training materials for health workers on combined deworming and vitamin A supplementation that include gender equality and disability content.  
  • Data collection tools for combined deworming and vitamin A supplementation that include sex and disability data. This allows the Ministries of Health to monitor whether services are reaching both girls and boys. 
  • Coverage rates showing the percentage of children receiving deworming and vitamin A are equal between girls and boys.
  • Communications and Engagement Plans for deworming and vitamin A supplementation that includes gender equality messaging and considerations for reaching women and men with important health information.
  • Community Gender Dialogues with health workers, community leaders and parents in Kenya helped raise awareness on how gender equality issues can impact their children’s health and well-being.
  • Collaboration with Ministries for social affairs (for women, families, people with disability) in Côte d’Ivoire helps support the Ministry of Health to continue improving gender equality in the long term.

What did we learn? 

Although we understand that achieving gender equity is a long-term process that can’t be completed within 4 years, we learned that we can succeed in promoting gender equality and mainstreaming it into health services for children. We faced challenges in completing project activities and learned some valuable lessons along the way: 

  1. Completing a good quality gender analysis at the start of a project is critical for understanding the context and gender-related barriers in society that affect health and well-being. Without this, we could not address some of the attitudes about girls and children with disabilities that prevent them from receiving health services. 
  2. Multi-sectoral partnerships should be extended to social ministries and include women and people with disabilities. This would improve understanding of gender equality and disability across sectors and ensure NTD programs are equitable and appropriate for everyone. 
  3. We need incremental resources to complete the work needed to truly achieve gender transformation. 

We encourage you to read the recent reports on gender and NTDs from Uniting to Combat and The Access and Delivery Partnership. These reports highlight that NTDs can impact men and women differently, and people of different genders can experience NTDs in different ways. 

This is important and we will be more proactive in looking at our programs through a gender lens. Then we will be able to see and understand how different people are affected by NTDs, and also to find ways our NTD programs can address inequalities and reach all women, men, girls and boys.

For more information on gender equality and the Every Child Thrives project or visit Workshop 1.4 Applying gender equality and inclusion in NTD interventions to achieve equitable health services to watch our workshop from the 2020 Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network (NNN) Conference. 

Please visit the WHO’s website on gender, equity and human rights to learn more about gender and equity in health.