At least 37 percent women in Bangladesh are unable to take decisions about their own healthcare, according to a report published by UN Women titled, “Progress of world's women 2015-2016: Transforming economies, realizing rights.” Despite the tremendous progress made in terms of women's empowerment over the last decade, that women must still depend on their husbands or other family members for their own healthcare needs goes to show that there is still a long way to go before equality can be established within the household and the larger community.
In both rural and urban areas, a significant proportion of women are unaware of their sexual and reproductive rights, or are unable to exercise them, because of constraints such as societal restrictions, lack of education, and limited access to resources. Patriarchal mindsets in our society dictate that women remain passive within the household, suppressing their views and ignoring their medical conditions, no matter how severe. This has had disastrous impact on maternal health, child mortality, life expectancy and overall quality of life of many women.
The UN Women report states that women's economic empowerment plays an important role in increasing her access to decision-making in the family. As more and more women become financially independent, the hope is that they will be better able to challenge patriarchal norms and have more of a say, particularly when it comes to their own lives. Consciousness-raising at different levels, among both men and women, is necessary to establish the importance of enabling women to make their own decisions. At the same time, we need to ensure quality yet affordable healthcare for all women.