Gender Equality


HENA seeks gender equality in all policies and practices affecting well-being in the Americas. We support efforts that work to achieve gender equality – that is, when men, women, girls and boys enjoy equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. These rights cross all sectors of a community and are strengthened when behaviors, goals and needs are equally valued for all men and women.

Scholars agree that equality between men and women is a human right and a critical factor in encouraging healthy people. According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “gender equality does not mean that men and women have to become the same; their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female.”


Gender Equality vs. Gender Equity?

  • Gender equality means that men and women have equal conditions for well-being and to contribute to, and benefit from, a society’s political, economic, social and cultural development.
  • Gender equity is the process for being fair to men and women.

Think of gender equality as the end goal and gender equity as the way to get to that goal.


Current Priority Area within Gender Equality

In 2018, HENA’s leadership, aware of the vast issues surrounding gender equality, determined that violence against women would be its initial focus within the gender equality policy work that needs to be completed. We encourage our members and others to learn about this area, take action and support campaigns within your communities that will help to move our societies to prevent violence against women.


Violence against Women

Violence against women can take many forms: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, and classism and are often interconnected. HENA understands violence against women as any act or conduct, based on gender, which causes death or physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women. Whether those acts are in the public or the private sphere, whether they are immediate or long term with some acts resulting in death.

HENA promotes policies that empower women and we encourage proactive measures to stop the cycle of violence by advocating for access to healthcare, housing, employment, education, and government services and benefits. At the same time, we recognize areas of vulnerability that place women at risk and include but are not limited to those identified by the Office on Women’s Health (US Department of Health and Human Services), Inter-American Convention, and UN Women, including:

  1. Violence in the workplace, educational institution, health facility or any other place;
  2. Sexual harassment, abuse, rape, torture, kidnapping;
  3. Intimate partner violence and domestic violence;
  4. Emotional and verbal abuse;
  5. Dating violence;
  6. Financial abuse;
  7. Digital abuse.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. It implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so.”

A major public health issue is cancer of the uterine cervix, also known as cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is caused primarily by certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. Cervical cancer prevention is part of comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights because of screening approaches and fertility implications:

  • It is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the Americas
  • Fortunately, more than 90% of cervical cancer is preventable by the HPV vaccine(Global Cancer Institute).

HENA supports Sexual and Reproductive Health rights in the Americas and will continue to promote policies that improve cervical cancer prevention programs throughout the Americas. We encourage proactive measures to comprehensive sexuality education, HPV screening, and services facilitating early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.


UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 


The UN 2030 Agenda spells out several steps and policy work needed to achieve gender equality. Of its 17 goals for sustainable development, one of the goals of the UN 2030 agenda work toward this HENA policy focus area to achieve gender equality and reduce violence against women:

Goal 5: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.


Recommendations from the Commission of PAHO on Health Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas

HENA’s work is also in step with recommendations released from PAHO in September 2018, specifically:

  • Recommendation 8: to reduce gender-based violence to achieve health equity and a recommendation to eliminate all forms of political violence, including violence to migrants through separation of families and violation of women. Read more about Recommendation 8A and 8C.


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Click here for Current Campaigns Promoting Gender Equality




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