Women in all societies face challenges to realize their right to health. This is often closely related to their social and economic status. Women cannot access a hospital, because they cannot afford the user fees. Discrimination of women in the family does not allow them to visit a doctor. Health insurance can only be obtained with permission of a male guardian; if he refuses the woman has no access.

These are but a few examples. Many women do not see or know the connection between what is happening to them and their daily life, and what should be happening according to the human rights obligations taken up by their governments. This gap is explored by the Health Rights of Women Assessment Instrument, in short HeRWAI.

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How does it work?

HeRWAI is a practical tool for organizations to bring a human rights approach into practice. HeRWAI is a handbook that provides step by step guidance to analyse the impact of a policy or law on women’s health rights. The analysis shows the human rights impact of the policy and relates this to international human rights treaties. The aim of a HeRWAI analysis is to produce a set of evidence based recommendations for the improvement of women’s rights in a country. These recommendations can then be used in a lobby & advocacy campaign targeting government officials and other relevant actors. The
recommendations can focus on the development, improvement or implementation of a policy on women’s health issues. With HeRWAI organisations can hold their governments accountable for what they have signed up for and ensure women’s health rights are realized.

Working with HeRWAI increases the capacity of an organization to apply human rights principles in its work in a more strategic way. HeRWAI has been successfully applied by organisations in different parts of the world. This has resulted in new or improved policies and laws in amongst others Nepal, Bangladesh, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and the Netherlands. The HeRWAI manual is available in English, Spanish, French, Nepali, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Russian. And has been used in over 20 countries.

'Realising treatment for women in Nepal'

Women in Nepal often work in construction. They have to work even during their pregnancy. After their pregnancy they do not get sufficient maternity leave to fully recover from their delivery. In combination with the heavy physical construction work this provides a risk for women to develop a prolapsed uterus. This is a serious health problem for these women and causes them many different problems. Furthermore the women do not have the financial means to get treatment, although this is possible. Based on their HeRWAI study, a Nepalese NGO called WOREC recommended to their government to develop a policy which provides free operation for women with a prolapsed uterus. This policy was accepted.

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