Blogs

Women and girls empowerment without improved routine immunization of all children? Not likely.

RESULTS Canada Staff

A Pakistani female vaccine worker carries a cooler of polio vaccines to the remote town of Harnai. Today she will have to administer 50 vaccines. This is her third visit to Harnai in three months and she now knows all the children there. Some of them wait for her up the street. They giggle and scatter as she approaches. She’s on a first name basis with many of the mothers, and some already feel like friends.

Sitting with them in their homes they now ask her advice— “is his weight normal for his age?” She assures them that indeed the boy is normal weight for his age. She enjoys getting updates on how the children in the community are doing. “The youngest has had a growth spurt, I see,” she comments with a laugh.

Many of these mothers are not able to leave the house without the company of their husbands, making doctor’s visits hard. The social and cultural barriers that girls and women face, for just being female, can be restrictive. This is why the home visits of the Female Vaccine Workers are integral to ensuring each of the mother’s children get their three doses of oral polio vaccine; and a key reason why there is equal vaccine coverage between boys and girls, despite the barriers that women and mothers face accessing health care in Pakistan.

Back in March, RESULTS Canada sat down with Raseema Alam, a board member of RESULTS Canada who formerly worked for UNICEF in Pakistan and Afghanistan on polio vaccination campaigns. In short to ask her—are women important to the success of vaccine campaigns and are driving improved child health? The answer?  Yes, very much.

To read the full post, visit the Gavi blog.