Geneva, 9 March 2009 - The GAVI Alliance has started implementing a proactive gender policy into its work to ensure equal access to immunisation for boys and girls.
GAVI's Gender Policy commits the Alliance to use a gender perspective in the design, planning, and delivery of vaccinations and other health services. One of the largest providers of life-saving vaccines to children in the developing world, the Alliance believes that access to vaccines and better health should be an equal right for all.
Policy Director Nina Schwalbe welcomed the gender policy implementation plan, which was approved just ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March.
"Immunisation has often been perceived as gender neutral, however initial studies indicate that there may be differences both in coverage and burden of disease that need to be considered. By implementing a gender policy, GAVI promotes the principles enshrined in international commitments. It also aligns the Alliance with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, with its cross-cutting issues of human rights and gender equality," Ms Schwalbe explained.
"As an Alliance we are in an ideal position to raise awareness and promote efforts towards gender equality in immunisation and related services on the country-level and globally," she added. "Research on the issue is scarce and we urgently need more evidence. It is crucial that we find ways to use data collection better to ensure that discrimination based on gender - be it against boys or girls - is addressed."
GAVI's commitment to increasing access to better health for women was emphasised when GAVI CEO Julian Lob-Levyt received the "MDG3 torch" from the Danish government. MDG3 is one of the Millennium Development Goals that governments and the United Nations vowed to reach by 2015. MDG3 is aimed at eliminating gender disparity.
In receiving the torch, Dr. Julian Lob-Levyt pledged to working with GAVI's partners to accelerate the availability of vaccines to prevent diseases that cause suffering and death for girls and women.
According to GAVI's implementation plan, from this year on, the Alliance will generate new data on the gender aspects of vaccination coverage and related health services. The Alliance will also assess the gender impact of all new vaccines it introduces, including the vaccine against cervical cancer. GAVI has already started applying the policy in its Health Systems Strengthening programmes.