Does A Politician’s Eyes Look At Women?
Bangkok, Thailand – Throughout the ages, the process of birthing has always been a cause of intrigue and celebration among human beings. But for Steve Chadwick, an MP in New Zealand’s Labour-led government and former midwife, there’s nothing that mirrors politics as much as the process of giving birth.
Chadwick bemoaned the growing risk of women and girls to sexual reproductive health and HIV problems.
“The resilience and power of woman going through the birthing process taught me that the natural forces of humanity are very strong. Regardless of where a woman gives birth, they have a strong instinct for survival and nurturing the next generation,” said Chadwick, “But without access to sexual and reproductive health services, women are not able to play their nurturing role in society.”
As a midwife, Chadwick cut her teeth in the politics of birthing in her country, acquiring skills that helped her to make a natural transition into grueling world of national politics. In her view, the greatest problem is that decision makers, especially men, do not usually listen to women’s stories.
In most parts of the world, women voices are under-represented, even in matters that directly affect their sexual reproductive health. It is increasingly apparent that women, particularly married women, are at the epicenter of the epidemic in most parts of the world.
“Women don’t have equity of access to education and income; this remains a major problem,” said Chadwick, “There’s a big gap in gender equality. Women lack choices to speak out about what’s best for their sexual reproductive health.”
In spite of this glaring gap in the current response to the epidemic, there’s global call to scale up access to HIV and AIDS treatment and other services. Yet, unless current weakness that make women vulnerable are addressed, scaling up will only serve to magnify existing loopholes and problems.
“Before we scale up, we need to look at what we are currently doing,” said Chadwick. “I don’t believe we are ready to scale up yet. There are many gaps in the current approaches that need to be closed before scaling up can occur. We need to join-up before we can scale up services.”
That politics is key to a better response is widely acknowledged, but politicians are often self-serving at the expense of the public good. Besides, politicians tend to mistrust NGOs.
“Politicians do not go out to ask NGOs what they should be doing and only rely on advice from government ministries. The value of dialogue between politicians and NGOs is in sharing ideas on how to improve the quality of lives and livelihoods,” she said.
In addition, politicians are so used to giving promises that they will appear to support the submissions of NGOs without any commitment or accountability whatsoever.
“Politicians will say, yes, we support the work and the global commitments that we have signed up to - but let others do the work,” she said. “They don’t see the tragic dimensions of HIV and AIDS.”
To make matters worse, NGOs have no clear mandate because they are not voted into power by the people they seek to serve. NGO usually emerge out of perceived social need yet lack the political muscle to make changes that can clearly improve lives and livelihoods. At the same time, NGOs cannot just stand aside and watch communities that they seek serve disintegrate while the politicians make endless, unfulfilled promises.
“NGOs have to feel less subservient and collaborate more and more with the ministries of government. Politicians will come and go but the ministries will always be around,” said Chadwick
Most importantly, NGOs need to develop a shared vision if they are going to make themselves heard and understood by those that are in power. Part of the problem of why there’s lack of accountability is that a lot of money has been poured into HIV since it was first identified 25 years ago, yet in many parts of the world, there’s been little to no progress.
“Global funders need to get together – there’s masses amount of money going out into the field but there’s no real shared vision,” said Chadwick.
However, politicians need to understand issues so that they can become better bridges between government and the people.
“I believe the place of politics is in telling the story that there is an incidence of HIV and AIDS, and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). It is about funding and making sure that the funding services we contract are effective services. It is hugely important for politicians to know about the incidence and prevalence of HIV and AIDS, even in countries that say they do not have the problem,” she said.
Tags: Steve Chadwick , New Zealand , Labour , Sexual Reproductive Heal
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