Ending malaria is an unrealized opportunity for advancing gender and health equity because it is preventable, treatable and beatable. By investing in malaria eradication, we can reduce maternal and child mortality, improve women’s empowerment and gender equality and bend the curve on poverty.
When families and communities suffer less from the deadly or long-term consequences of malaria – a preventable and treatable disease – new opportunities open to women and adolescent girls. This is critical for improving other health outcomes, maximizing women and adolescent girls’ potential, catalyzing economic recovery and lifting families out of poverty.
When we invest more in women and adolescent girls at the fulcrum of the malaria fight, we can achieve a double dividend: accelerate ending malaria and advance gender equality.
Gender-based investments and strategies in malaria prevention, control and elimination efforts are key to achieving progress toward eradication that has long been elusive. But equally, ending malaria is an unrealized opportunity for advancing gender equality in health. Defeating malaria within a generation is possible. Unlocking the power and agency of women and adolescent girls is essential to achieving this goal.
For too long, the fight against malaria has been gender-blind. Women and adolescent girls in malaria-endemic countries are leading investors in the fight against malaria, yet systemic gender inequalities prevent them from reaping the benefits of a world without malaria.
As patients, caregivers and healthcare providers, women and adolescent girls disproportionately experience the health, societal and economic brunt of malaria. These effects often have lifelong consequences that perpetuate malaria as a driver of poverty and gender inequality.
It is time to address malaria’s hidden toll on women and adolescent girls and to unlock the power and agency of women and girls to become greater change agents in the fight against malaria.
Much of malaria’s toll is hidden due to factors such as lack of disaggregated gender and age data; not valuing and investing in female Community Health Workers (CHWs); and unpaid hours spent on caregiving for family members with malaria. The time is now to actively work to empower women and adolescent girls to be valued change agents in the fight against malaria. We also need to address the structural changes to enable these women to become decision makers not just implementers in the malaria fight.
A growing movement is calling for an intentional, cohesive and sustained approach to gender and malaria.
Achieving a Double Dividend: The Case for Investing in a Gendered Approach to the Fight Against Malaria lays out why it matters and what is needed to end malaria sooner, and how ending malaria can lead to improved gender equality. The Investment Case calls on governments, donors, researchers, implementers, policy makers, civil society and the private sector to step out of typical silos and bring an intentional gender lens to four areas: malaria programs, policies, research, and leadership.