Access to health care is a basic human right. This right should be given to every class, gender, sex, religion, and race regularly but for this, it is also necessary that every person should be aware of his right. A report released by the United Nations paints a bleak picture of Pakistan, which has yet to make a serious start for the advancement of women, most of whom are deprived of education and basic health care. The report states that 98.8 per cent of women in the poorest rural households are deprived of education, which is defined as completing only six years or less of education. Women in rural areas are not only the most deprived of education but also don’t have access to basic facts. Even the majority of women in Pakistan are not only never given the right to make decisions about their health care but they are also never given their own realities such as changes in the body, sexual dysfunction, hormonal issues and many such basic things. One reason is lack of education, lack of resources and economic exposure. An average of 48.1 per cent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 in Pakistan do not have the right to make any decision regarding their own health care. In rural areas, women and girls have a 1.3 times higher rate of non-judgment of their own health care than in urban areas. A lady doctor told me that the majority of women come to them in only two cases, either when a woman is pregnant or when the child is about to be born. In rural areas, it is not even customary. There is no tradition of going to the doctor because there is a severe lack of awareness as well as resources in the rural areas. Therefore, most of the women either go to the clumsy dispensary or call the midwife at home. In this whole process, women usually lose their lives. Even at home, it is considered bad to tell young girls what changes will take place in their bodies, at what age and how to deal with them. Only a lady doctor can tell all these things. Former health minister Yasmeen Rashid ran many campaigns for breast cancer, Thalassemia and Covid, but there was no mention of basic women’s health issues in those campaigns. Dr Huma Qureshi, consultant gastroenterologist and national lead on viral hepatitis, highlighted the restrictions on women’s mobility and decision-making. “Women can make choices for their children’s health and can go to a doctor if a child is ill. However, they do not have the agency to go to a doctor for their own health,” she said. It is crucially important to have a basic awareness of how to take care of hygiene during menstruation. Cultural restrictions, feelings of shame, ignorance, or even financial constraints keep women from raising awareness about hygiene in general and menstruation in South Asia in particular. Misinformation and baseless superstitions are passed on from generation to generation as a result of the silence factor associated with menstruation even in the age of technology and information. This is inherently a guilty society because, in our country, it is said to be very shameful to plan a family. Despite society’s obsession with regulating women’s bodies, little attention is paid to the pain they feel. Women rarely speak on the question of procreation and are often confined to the role of procreation within the family, which reflects a failure to imagine their role beyond that of the mother. A woman’s marriage means a long line of children. Despite her physical weaknesses, she is expected to have one child after another. According to medical experts, it is very important to take a gap for at least two years after the birth of a child. Only a gynaecologist can give all this information. The government should take steps to make common issues of women a public service message. As a woman herself, former health minister Yasmeen Rashid ran many campaigns for breast cancer, Thalassemia and Covid, but there was no mention of basic women’s health issues in those campaigns. Why does nobody talk about what kind of food to eat after childbirth, how long after re-pregnancy is good for health, family planning, precautionary measures in case of abortion, bone problems and many such basic things? An expert lady doctor told me while being interviewed for this piece: “If lack of resources is the problem then why has the government not introduced any helpline? So that the women all over Pakistan can at least speak about their problems and question them. Why not enact a law that would at least allow women to fight for their health? The government’s performance towards women’s issues has been zero.” Pakistan needs to focus on reproduction as part of a comprehensive healthcare approach that would raise the status of women’s health in the country, says a new World Bank report. Pakistan’s health budget is hovering around one per cent, which can tell a lot about the state’s priorities. It is the responsibility of the state to provide health care, deviating from the privatization model adopted by the current government. The theme for the Aurat March held on International Women’s Day this year was the healthcare crisis. It called for universal healthcare and the opportunity to live in a society that values our lives and our bodies. It is time to pay heed to their message. The writer is a freelance columnist.