Research shows that high gender inequity translates into poor health for mothers, pregnant women, and children. At the community and individual level, gender inequities and disparities can underlie dimensions of poverty among women. Low socioeconomic status can be associated with high fertility rates, low educational attainment, higher burden of disease, and HIV/AIDS. Gender inequities and disparities also affect access to healthcare services for women and children, particularly in fragile contexts.
Social enterprise-based models have great potential to improve maternal and child health (MCH) services and they can also be used to provide an improved source of income for women. A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, such as a cooperative or a community organization.
An initial study of social enterprise approaches to MCH care in Africa identified two primary social enterprise models: one based on primary health clinics and one based on mobile community health promoters and sales agents. Gender dynamics played an important role between women and healthcare providers, healthcare providers and social enterprises, and social enterprises and their impact on the individual or community. However, these relationships have not been adequately explored in relation to their impact on maternal and child healthcare services and related outcomes for women and children.
The aim of this project, implemented by BRAC Africa, is to improve the understanding of how gender and the social enterprise approach can improve access to maternal and child health services and to outcomes across Africa and globally. The research methodology will include: a systematic literature review and mapping on gender equality, maternal and child health, and social enterprise; a survey to provide basic insight and foundational knowledge into structures and practices; and gender analysis involving both primary and secondary research using key informant interviews and focus group discussions. This will build on an existing IMCHA projects in partnership with BRAC Africa in order to expand the knowledge base about gender equality and social enterprises targeted at improving maternal and child health outcomes as well as identifying practical lessons and promising strategies.
This project is funded by the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa program. It is a seven-year $36 million initiative funded by Global Affairs Canada, IDRC, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.