By Clare Urquhart

Gender-related inequities and barriers can prevent both caregivers and their children from accessing immunisation and other health care services. Socio-cultural and economic factors can limit access to immunisation services for themselves or their children. For example, when women are under-educated, economically dependent, and have limited autonomy and decision-making powers, they are less likely to have their children vaccinated.

Gavi defines gender-related barriers as ‘obstacles to the access and utilisation of health services that are related to social and cultural norms about men and women’s roles.’ As part of the review process for the Gender Policy, the Policy team has been working towards finding indicators that countries can use to detect and identify gender-related barriers to immunisation, and to evaluate how prominent these gender-related barriers are amongst populations within Gavi-supported countries. Barriers to immunisation can relate to political climates within countries, social and cultural norms, including religious and cultural beliefs, as well as socioeconomic barriers of nonautonomy and lack of decision-making power within the household.

Understanding gender-related barriers is integral to the monitoring and evaluation of programmes within developing countries, regardless if related to strengthening health systems. Gavi has had a gender policy since 2013, and part of my job is to support the execution of the policy for the 2021-2025 strategic period. Gavi is an important partner within the global health alliance, as it is one of the primary organisations specifically focussing on vaccinations and immunisation programmes.

I have had to pleasure to be involved in country and CSO consultations, which is the process of discussing the progression of the gender policy. Incorporating the opinions of CSOs and country representatives is extremely important to Gavi with regards to ensuring that the gender policy addresses needs within country, but also to ensure that the policy really strengthens the capacities of countries, which is one of Gavi’s principles for the upcoming strategic period. These consultations have been difficult, as you never really understand the level of gender inequities within country until they are described from someone who experiences these inequities first-hand.

Throughout my internship, I have noticed myself adopting a particular lens that is applied both in my work but also in my personal life. I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more self-aware of how gender equality and equity impacts the relationships I make and have made as well as the work that I complete at Gavi on a regular basis. A pleasant surprise is how many individuals within Gavi are truly dedicated to seeing an improvement within Gavi-supported countries with regards to gender equality. This organisation has a number of gender champions that are really focused on making Gender an integral part to Gavi’s overall strategic goals, and to make gender a priority within the organisation with regards to everyday work and activities. It has been a pleasure to know that many people within the organisation support the work that we are doing.

I will never forget all of the incredible individuals I have met over the course of my internship. I am so grateful to have made such valuable friendships with people from all over the world, and to be consistently surrounded by empowering people who are looking to make a difference in the world.