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Women not comfortable talking about health issues due to social taboo: survey

The key findings of the Indian Women’s Health Report 2021 showed that 90% working women face a conflict of interest while balancing familial/ personal and professional obligations. Premium
The key findings of the Indian Women’s Health Report 2021 showed that 90% working women face a conflict of interest while balancing familial/ personal and professional obligations. 

  • Indian Women’s Health Report 2021 surveyed 1,000 working women aged between 25 and 55 years, across seven cities
  • Through the survey, women working in white-collar jobs shared details of the stigma they face related to health, and how it all led to social pressures and professional issues

NEW DELHI : The Indian Women’s Health Report 2021 surveying 1,000 working women aged between 25 and 55 years, across seven cities, has revealed that about half the women surveyed were not comfortable talking about one or more women’s health issues due to the prevalent societal taboo and stigma associated with them.

The study has been conducted by Emcure Pharmaceuticals in association with Ipsos Research Pvt. Ltd (Ipsos India) with an objective to gain insights on the social, cultural, and medical outlook for working women and eventually find solutions involving various stakeholders.

Through the survey, women working in white-collar jobs shared details of the stigma they face related to health, and how it all led to social pressures and professional issues.

The key findings showed that 90% working women face a conflict of interest while balancing familial/ personal and professional obligations.

Over 86% working women have observed their colleagues, relatives or friends drop out of the workforce, 59% of whom cited health issues as the main reason.

Further, the report showed that 84% working women have faced stereotypes or  judgements around periods such as being told not to go near sacred spaces such as places of worship or kitchen or even being told to hide their sanitary napkins.

The findings highlight that commonly occurring issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), breast cancer and endometriosis are still subject to taboo and stereotypes. This reflects the current state of women’s health in India in a poor light.

About 66% working women think society considers women suffering from endometriosis as unsuitable for marriage. Over 67% working women say that talking about health issues is still considered a taboo in the society, the report showed.

Namita Thapar, executive director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, said, “When we launched our YouTube talk show, Uncondition Yourself, this January around women’s health, we realized that getting women to come on the show and talk about their health was a big challenge. This prompted us to conduct a study and ramp up our initiatives around awareness and diagnosis. Despite the progress we have made in the corporate sector for involving women in the workforce, issues related to women’s health are still associated with irrational taboos. The findings of our study reveal the persistence of mis-perceptions and illogical societal taboos related to women’s health issues affecting even India’s white collar women across sectors."

“The study indicates that besides the health issues, there are multiple professional and societal stereotypes women are exposed to, which can lead to stigmatization, affecting their professional performance," she said, and added, “Ignorance, unawareness and lack of acceptance will only make these issues more difficult to diagnose and resolve. As a responsible society, it is imperative to make these issues acceptable and mainstream. Women have strong voices and they must speak up more often about these important issues."

The study has found that even though nearly half the working women surveyed are either diagnosed with or know someone else diagnosed with issues such as infertility, breast cancer and PCOS, they are still hesitant to discuss these health issues.

75% of the working women said that their employers were taking initiatives to help address health issues, the study also found that more than 80% of them felt that their male colleagues lacked sensitivity when it came to women's health-related concerns.

Moreover, 52% of working women find it difficult to manage health with work. Among various sectors, the number was highest at 67% for the women working in retail sector.

For Emcure Pharmaceuticals’ study on the social, cultural and medical outlook for working women, Ipsos India collected the information about the health issues working women face and stigma associated with it in the society and corporate world.

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