Equal pay, migrant workers, and maternal health are the issues highlighted by the finalists of the inaugural APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Research Prize.
Established last year by President Sebastián Piñera of Chile and supported by leading science and technology company Merck, the prize awards research that addresses women’s health and economic well-being by applying sex-disaggregated data. In doing so, the research is expected to identify gaps in policies and help policy makers and business leaders to prepare and implement needed action.
Organized by the APEC Policy Partnership for Women and the Economy’s Healthy Women Healthy Economies initiative, the prize is one of many initiatives that reflect a top priority this year for the forum: the economic empowerment of women through inclusive growth.
“Chile’s focus on women’s economic empowerment is game changing. When you empower women – on the farm, in factories, or on corporate boards – you gain productivity and earnings. Everyone benefits,” said Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat.
The three finalists will convene for the prize announcement on 1 October 2019 at the upcoming APEC Women and the Economy Forum in La Serena, Chile.
The prize winner will receive USD 20,000 and take part in the annual Women Leaders’ APEC Roundtable during APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in November, attended by influential leaders in government and business. The runners-up will receive USD 5,000 each.
All three finalists have dedicated their careers to improving women’s well-being. As Research Director of Chilean advocacy group ComunidadMujer, Paula Poblete works to promote gender equality in education, labor, and politics. Focused on the challenges facing women trying to stay in the workforce, Poblete’s research recommends policies that enable women to care for themselves and their families in the long term. Modernizing the pension system, for example, would improve the compensation provided to women, currently reduced due to women’s longer life expectancy.
“Women have been increasing their participation in the workforce across generations. But men and the state often do not share the burden, so the cost for women is very high. It is not sustainable to leave it to individuals to balance caring for their families and earning an income to guarantee their financial security. Public policy must act now,” said Poblete.
Finalist Dr Hong Jiang of China focused on another facet of women’s health, in particular the reproductive years. Her research recommends a reduction in episiotomies, a surgical procedure before childbirth that can cause severe trauma for women and impact childcare. The work of Dr Jiang, an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and Global Health Institute at Fudan University, has been cited by the World Health Organization in its guidance for care during childbirth.
“A healthy child needs a healthy mother. Let’s help women to recover from childbirth with less pain,” said Dr Jiang.
Dr Veronica Ramirez also examines the health of women, in particular the health of Filipino women working overseas, whose remittances account for a large share of the Philippines’ economy. Dr Ramirez, an Assistant Professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific, identified the ailments common amongst women migrant workers, which are related to reproductive, urinary, excretory, and endocrine systems, and outlined how each agency working with the women, from health agencies to employers to migrant associations, can improve their health.
“Migrant workers are often neglected by society at large yet they are integral to our economies and many of our families. The quality of their health impacts us all, and we should do more to ensure their well-being,” explained Dr Ramirez.
Since its inception in 2014, the APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative has improved women’s health through public-private partnerships. One key outcome has been the cross-sector collaboration in creating The Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Policy Toolkit, a compendium of the elements required to improve women’s health across five areas: workplace health and safety; health awareness and access; sexual and reproductive health; gender-based violence; and work/life balance.
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