The current edition of GenderIT.org approaches the problematic issue of women´s health and its interconnection with information and communication technologies (ICTs) policies. When we speak of health, according to the World Health Organization, we are speaking of “a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not only the absence of aflictions or illness or diseases”. Health is understood as a positive concept that emphasises our physical capacities as well our personal and social resources. And here, as in other aspects of human life, obtaining gender equity in health is a goal because deep inequities exist in the levels of physical, psychological and emotional well-being, which in turn, are further affected by a myriad of conditions such as disparate socioeconomic levels, ethnicity, age, geographic region and sexual orientation.
People dedicated to research, formulation of policies and performance in the area of health policies, whether public or private, must approach such inequities through measures like gender-analysis of health situations (including “gender indicators” for monitoring and evaluation), training health workers on integrating gender perspective in their daily work, information dissemination for more policies and gender sensitive programs and the increase of women’s participation in defining their own health priorities.
In all this, ICTs have an enormous strategic potential to locate women at the centre of health initiatives. There are many examples of ICTs’ transformative potential on gender relations and roles:
Health clinics equipped with information technologies in low-income communities offer women information on available services, health and hygiene; distance-medicine for women living in isolated areas; women's organisations that share materials and promote health awareness campaigns through ICTs, just to list a few examples.
But on the other hand, new reproductive and genetic technologies such as sex-selection or human cloning, are used to manipulate fertility or reproductive practices and, in this way, ensure the continuation of gender inequality and discrimination. There is a broad range of other new technologies that could affect women's rights as modern science converges, including medical, pharmacological, and nano technologies.
We are living, then, in a historical moment where the cross cutting nature of gender perspectives in health policies cannot be just a declaration of intent: policy interventions must plan and evaluate the gendered impact of new technologies applied in the health sector, as well as support community actions to extend the access of women to health services.
In an attempt to contribute to this discussion, in this edition GenderIT.org writers analyze some of the existing challenges and experiences about this subject in Uruguay, West Africa, Uganda and a summary overview around integration of ICTs into health initiatives around the world.