Note: This post was originally published in March 2023 and has been updated to reflect CHISU’s most recent work around gender.
Integrating a gender-sensitive perspective is one of the most effective ways to promote gender equity at all levels of a health information system (HIS). Gender integration in HIS aims to ensure that all people, regardless of gender, and those marginalized due to gender-related norms can influence, participate in, and benefit from HIS efforts. CHISU understands the importance of disaggregating HIS data by gender or sex during collection, analysis, and use to ensure that health systems foster greater equity rather than perpetuating inequities. Further, when decision makers examine health inequities, they are better able to translate data into decisions that support equitable policies, increase demand for equity data, and inform health programming.
As part of CHISU’s gender integration efforts, the program is co-hosting a session at the Africa HealthTech Summit (AHTS) 2023 that will highlight the pivotal role of women in driving innovation and progress in the digital health sector across the African continent. In addition, CHISU will help kick off the action plan of the African Women in Digital Health (AWiDH) movement during a partner luncheon at AHTS. CHISU will also co-host a panel at the Global Digital Health Forum (GDHF) 2023 in December to introduce AWiDH’s action plan and further strengthen partner engagement.
Since the program’s inception, CHISU has been intentionally and systematically integrating gender considerations in HIS strengthening interventions. The program is doing this through implementation of its Gender Plan, which includes examples, resources, and recommendations around how to institutionalize gender throughout its activities and four strategic areas: HIS governance, data availability and interoperability of systems, data quality and use, and local organizational capacity enhancement. All CHISU staff participate in a gender training as part of their orientation process, and technical staff are supported through consultations with gender specialists and a detailed gender integration guide to report quarterly on their gender-sensitive work.
This internal integration guide walks technical leads through a process of identifying how each activity may influence or be influenced by gender disparities, power imbalances, and data collection, analysis, and use. The interactive guide has prompts to generate discussion to help staff consider which gender considerations to include in their activity planning and reporting. For example, if an activity provides support or technical assistance for HIS strategy or strategic plan development, readers of the guide are prompted with the following ideas for gender integration:
- Discussing the importance of gender and health in the HIS strategy
- Institutionalizing the collection and use of sex- or gender-disaggregated data
- Including gender in resource mapping and budgeting, particularly because resource allocation for gender mainstreaming often falls short
During the first half of program implementation, CHISU has seen demonstrated growth of activities and staff awareness of gender in HIS. For example, CHISU has supported a focus on gender being written into a data analyst job description in the Ministry of Health in Serbia; newly implemented gender awareness and parity tracking for digital device distribution in Niger; and workshop adaptations to support breastfeeding breaks to allow full participation of female community health workers in Burkina Faso. Sex disaggregation is now included in Mali’s integrated data management system for COVID-19 data, and teams have progressed from merely tracking the number of female and male participants to identifying gaps in women’s participation and advocating with local stakeholders to invite or support more women to attend.
Dr. Nadège Minougou, who is a One Health expert with the One Health Technical Secretariat, highlighted some of Burkina Faso’s efforts around gender integration ahead of her participation at AHTS.
“In addition to Burkina Faso’s regulatory texts, which provide for the equity and participation of women in all bodies, our activities on the One Health platform take women into account,” she said. “During training sessions for community players, for example, we organize breastfeeding breaks to enable breastfeeding women to participate fully in training sessions. We encourage the participation of women in conferences, scientific exchanges, capacity building, and more.”
Ferguson Duvor, Data Manager with the Ghana Health Service National Malaria Elimination Program and a participant at AHTS, added that: “Collaboration with organizations and initiatives that focus on women’s health and gender equity is key to ensuring that digital health solutions address the unique needs and challenges faced by women.”
By ensuring that gender is a central component of all HIS strengthening, digital transformation, and health system leadership, CHISU’s commitment to gender integration will help promote equitable health and the well-being of all citizens.