Female-headed households are an understudied aspect of gender equity globally and in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Aiming to raise the visibility of this public health issue, the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), in collaboration with the International Center for Equity in Health, Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, an d Countdown to 2030, held a workshop entitled “Gender equity and health: the role of female-headed households."
Held at AUB on January 7-9, 2020, the workshop brought together twelve researchers and health professionals from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen. Over three days, the participants expanded their knowledge and understanding of the circumstances of female-headed households in the MENA region, including the health correlates of female household headship. The workshop also aimed at quantifying the proportion of such households in low and middle-income countries in the MENA region, and at comparing the health of women and children living in households headed by men versus those headed by women. The participants gained hands-on skills analyzing survey data from their own countries.
“Too often when we study health it is either at the individual or population level, but we neglect the household dimension which is so important and where gender and other inequities begin," stated Dr. Jocelyn DeJong, associate dean for academic affairs and faculty affairs at FHS, highlighting the importance of addressing the role of female households. "Female headship of households needs more attention in public health, and this is especially the case in the Arab region, given their significant numbers particularly due to widespread forced displacement in the region," added Dr. DeJong.
Prof. Aluisio Barros from the International Center for Equity in Health at the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil also praised this workshop describing it as "an amazing opportunity to interact with researchers from the MENA region. I was impressed with the experience and ideas brought by the participants – mostly female! – and I believe it was an excellent learning opportunity for all of us. I certainly learned a lot from the group," added Prof. Barros.
In addition to Dr. Barros, the FHS team involved in this workshop included Dr. DeJong, Dr. Hala Ghattas, and Ms. Zeina Jamaluddine from the Center for Research on Population and Health (CRPH), along with Ms. Ghada Saad.
The workshop was funded by The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada which supports research that builds evidence to break the cycle of poverty, reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities, and to help people live healthier and more sustainable lives.