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Rural Ethiopian women still grappling with gender roles, norms, and relations to seek maternal and child health care

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Women Deliver 2019 Conference

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Abstract

Introduction: Since 2003, the Ethiopian health ministry has been implementing the Health Extension Programme, which emphasizes health education to communities nationwide. Gender mainstreaming was rolled out in 2013 providing gender sensitive health services, with the priority of improving maternal and child health to reduce mortality. The University of Ottawa, Canada and Jimma University in Ethiopia are undertaking research through the “Innovating Maternal and Child Health in Africa” program, funded by International Development Research Centre. Two interventions are being evaluated to assess impacts on skilled birth attendance: community-level Information, Education and Communication and health facility-level maternal waiting homes where woman can stay before and after delivery. This gender analysis identifies inequalities that arises from gender norms, roles and relations among men and women, and informs actions to further gender mainstreaming efforts in maternal and child health. Methods: Baseline quantitative data was collected (March – July 2017)in three districts of Jimma Zone, Ethiopia. A cross-sectional survey collected data from 3784 women who gave birth within 12 months preceding data collection and 3256 male partners. Preliminary results are presented with percentages. Results: Women respondents were generally younger than men (median age 27 vs 35 years) and less literate (M34%, F6%). The majority of men were in earning occupations (85%) whereas women were generally housewives (78%). More men owned a mobile phone (M53%, F6%),read newspapers (M16%, F7%), listened to the radio (M72%, F54%), or watched TV (M16%, F11%). Both men and women had knowledge that a woman may experience serious problems during delivery (M83%, F79%), may die (M86%, F84%), and lose her baby (M82%, F80%). While50%of respondents reported taking joint decisions for spending money on partner’s health, the remaining depended on the male partner for decision-making, and 30% of women depended on their husband’s decision for place of delivery. Conclusions: Gender norms, roles and relations were evident in Jimma Zone as reflected in unequal access to earning, education, information sources and resources and health-related decisions. Efforts should be made to address these inequities through existing community based religious, social and cultural institutions to equally reach to both men and women.

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