We are no longer living when women aren’t allowed to vote. If our marriages are no longer serving us, we can get a divorce. If we want fulfilling careers, we can go out into the world, work hard, and create them. Starting a family? It’s our choice, not an obligation. We can now celebrate our strengths and achievements as women instead of hiding them away, preferring to be meek and docile and “feminine” to make men feel more comfortable and capable. No longer confined by the old-fashioned, we can be more than simply daughters, wives, and mothers. We can be providers, too.
Some women do, of course, provide for their families, but for others, this reality is still nothing but a concept. While the 21st-century woman has a lot more freedom than women of the past, the societal norms that once held us captive did not vanish completely. They only took on a different shape, one that continues to suffocate and oppress us.
Our culture makes it difficult to fully escape a gender binary. For the most part, we are either male or female, and people expect us to perform our assigned gender role. Many of us still face prejudice based on gender, trampling the equality that good men and women around the world have fought so hard for.
They say women can do anything men can do, but in truth, we tend to always pull the short straw. This is most evident when it comes to the state of women’s health around the world.
Women face many challenges today—unequal pay, racism, sexual harassment, and poor healthcare, to name a few. Healthcare, especially, is one aspect of our lives that is particularly lacking—because when it comes to women, our health does not seem to be much of a priority throughout the world.
Many women suffer from a myriad of health conditions that go unnoticed. This isn’t just because having quality health care can be a challenge but because of a lack of time—even women with full-time jobs often find themselves taking care of their family in ways that surpass the efforts of their husbands. There are also health issues that exclusively effect women, such as pregnancy, menopause, breast cancer, and cervical cancer.
Here are some examples of health concerns that women commonly have:
- Cancer: breast and cervical cancer are the two most common cancers that effect women. Early detection is crucial to keeping yourself healthy and alive.
- Sexual and reproductive health problems: this accounts for one-third of issues women aged 15 to 34 face.
- Maternal health: women today are experiencing a great improvement in their care during pregnancy and childbirth compared to previous generations, but around the world, many women still die of routine complications.
- Violence against women: women, whether in a heterosexual or same-sex marriage, are likelier to be subject to various forms of violence at the hands of their partner.
- Sexually transmitted disease: unsafe sex has led to a considerable number of women contracting sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and HPV infection.
- Mental health: women have a higher tendency to suffer from mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, than men.
Aging is also a factor related to women’s health. Older women often have less access to quality health care, pensions, and social services—a truth we know so well.
Violence against women
Many women face physical, sexual, and mental abuse—from broken bones to mental issues, violence against women is recognized as a global epidemic. This violence and abuse is just one reason that many women struggle to leave their husbands. If you’re currently in the midst of a particularly nasty divorce, prepare yourself and find support.
Among the health impacts of domestic violence include depression, sexually transmitted infections, alcohol addiction, low birth weight of babies, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, as well as injury and death. This violence is so alarmingly common that we urgently need to find the underlying causes and ways to prevent more women from becoming victims.
Women and suicide
In countries around the world, there is a higher chance of women suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts than men. Interestingly enough, while men may suffer from depression less overall, on average, more men commit suicide. But the numbers are still worrisome. The female suicide rate varies from country to country. Lesotho, a South African country, has the highest female suicide rates at 32.6 percent, with a population of 100,000.
Suicide is a complex, sensitive issue with a multitude of causes. It’s scary to think that one day someone you love may fall into a depression so deep and vast that they seriously entertain thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, mental health awareness is growing. More people are learning to understand that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. The more we as a society normalize these conversations, the more we can have honest conversations about what possible factors contribute to it.
Whether it is women’s suicide, violence, or mental health issues, communication is a key element that can make a significant change. Open communication and increased awareness is the first step to bringing these issues into the spotlight and addressing them.
Women constitute more than half of the world’s population. The state of women’s health around the world is an indicator of how developed a country is. For example, approximately 529,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year, and 99 percent of those maternal deaths happen in developing nations. What we see when we look at the data is that improved women’s health means an improved community: higher levels of education, less people living in poverty, better access to healthcare.
The world may be working against us, but women are strong. Look for ways to find some peace and quiet in your life. Practice self-care. We are pillars of both society and our families. While no one can dispute our contributions and achievements, we are often victims of our society’s lack of support and misogyny. We may be far from our dream of equality, but we cannot lose hope. Women’s health couldn’t be more important—it has a ripple effect on everything around us.
Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.