Prof Rachel Jewkes
The MRC's Gender and Health Research Unit was established in January 2001 from the Women's Health Division of the Centre for Epidemiological Research in Southern Africa (CERSA). Its goal is to improve the health status and quality of life of women through high quality scientific research on gender and health which informs the development of policy, health services and health promotion.
Our specific objectives are:
- To provide scientific knowledge to inform the development of policies and programmes around gender and gender-based violence by:
- describing the epidemiology and aspects of the broader social context of gender inequities and gender-based violence in South Africa
- describing gender dimensions of practices related to sexual and reproductive health & experiences of violence
- describing the health impact of gender inequities and gender-based violence
- To evaluate interventions that empower women and men to improve their sexual and reproductive health through building gender equity, and preventing and responding to gender-based violence and HIV
- To provide scientific evidence for defining a public health response to gender-based violence
- To undertake research to improve the health of women, through a focus on gender issues within sexual and reproductive health.
- To develop research capacity in the area of gender and health research
The focus of the Gender and Health Unit has its origins in the recognition, both nationally and internationally, that gender inequity is a substantial violation of human rights and undermines women’s dignity, health and access to health care. The main interest of the unit lies in the areas of gender-based violence and its impact on women's lives and health. The unit is also host to two initiatives: the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), an initiative of the Global Forum for Health Research, which promotes research on sexual violence globally; and the South African Gender-based Violence and Health Initiative (SAGBVHI), which is a partnership of individuals and organisations working together to promote an appropriate health sector response to gender-based violence through research, training and advocacy.
We are a dynamic team that uses a variety of research methods, chiefly ethnographic and epidemiological, to address research questions of substantial importance for health policy, health promotion and health services for women in South Africa. We emphasise working in partnership with other organisations in research, training and advocacy activities.
The knowledge we generate helps members of the public and policy makers understand the magnitude of the problems studied, as well as their risk factors. Our work often gives an understanding of the quality of health and other services provided in South Africa. We describe problems in these services, barriers to their use and the aspects of services that users really value. We also develop training materials for people in the community and health workers, and implement a considerable amount of training on HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health promotion.