CapacityPlus developed learning tools to address the challenges of gender inequalities and discrimination in the health workforce and health professional education systems and promote gender-transformative principles in advocacy, policy-making, and program implementation.

Gender equality and nondiscrimination promote the achievement of health workers’ greatest potential, which can have a positive impact on the provision of high quality health care. When all health workers, whether male or female, can access education, training, and leadership opportunities, the quantity and quality of the health workforce improves. Giving all health workers an equal chance of being employed, fairly paid, and supported through life events such as childbearing may contribute to improved morale, productivity, and retention—in turn contributing to high-quality health services and the achievement of national and international health goals. Further, promoting gender equality within the health workforce has potential to transform gender norms within the populations health workers serve, by promoting nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and equality through the health services they provide.

Gender equality in health systems also requires that health workers be able and willing to provide high-quality care for victims of gender-based violence (GBV). In many countries and communities, GBV is not recognized as a health problem. Health workers who encounter clients who have experienced GBV may dismiss their injuries, may not ask appropriate questions in a sensitive way about the origin of their injuries, and may not refer clients to available GBV services. Further, all clients, men and women, should be able to receive care for every health problem in a way that is gender-appropriate.

Strategy and Approaches 
CapacityPlus addressed the challenges of gender inequalities and discrimination in the health workforce and health systems by 1) developing learning tools to promote gender-transformative principles among health workers and health system leaders; 2) building the capacity of stakeholders to use these tools for advocacy, policy-making, and the implementation of gender-transformative interventions to promote equal opportunity and nondiscrimination in the workplace, health professional education systems, and clinical care; and 3) training health workers to better recognize, treat, and refer clients who have experienced GBV. The tools include:

  • A gender and health systems strengthening (HSS) eLearning course that supports learners to understand how gender norms drive health behavior and decision-making and the provision and utilization of care, and presents evidence-based ways to improve health and social outcomes by addressing gender barriers. The course contributes to the aims of the USAID Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy and is designed to build the capacity of USAID field-based health officers, foreign-service nationals, and US government partners to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in health systems strengthening (HSS) efforts in order to improve health and social outcomes. The course is also a mechanism to disseminate some of the USAID Interagency Gender Working Group’s core gender analysis and integration concepts.
  • An advocacy tool to address gender discrimination in health workforce development that outlines recommended combinations of gender-transformative interventions to counter various forms of gender discrimination in learning environments, and provides advocacy strategies for stakeholders to develop plans to create, implement, and enforce conducive environments, equal opportunity, and nondiscrimination policies. The tool draws from a technical report and brief published earlier in the project on strengthening the health worker pipeline through gender-transformative strategies.
  • A companion advocacy tool to promote gender equality in the health workforce that provides users with approaches to understand and examine common gender discrimination types—pregnancy and family responsibilities discrimination, occupational segregation, wage and responsibility discrimination, and sexual harassment—along with recommended gender-transformative interventions and strategies for the health workforce and within health systems.

In addition, the project updated sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) curricula for health workers and trainers in Kenya and Mali. The curricula mainstreamed gender-transformative approaches, identified and filled health workforce skills gaps, and integrated new SGBV policy and service protocols to help these countries’ health systems to better respond to children, adolescents, and women who have experienced sexual violence.