Campaign Update

Gender Stereotypes in Chronic Health Conditions; The Case of Sickle Cell Anaemia.

ARREY- ECHI
Posted July 19, 2018 from Cameroon
A picture depicting me in my break the silence tee shirt and mode.
A picture depicting me in my break the silence tee shirt and mode.: They say a picture speaks a thousand words. The words on this tee shirt "Break The Silence With Sickle Strong Voices" does just that. (1/1)

During my just ended June 2018 colour awareness campaign on “Break the Silence… Be A Sickle Cell Voice”, one young warrior lady asked me a very interesting question. That question sent my mind spiralling and it is today, the focus of this article. The #WealthOfWomen wave which seeks to empower women in various ways not only materially, gave fresh impetus to this thought I have been writing over and over in my mind for a while and just wishing I could miraculously blow them into my computer screen.

The intriguing question she asked was if there were any gender stereotypes with people living with sickle cell. I have never looked at it this way though I always know women with sickle cell have a slight disadvantage for the simple fact that they are women and society generally looks down on the womenfolk. Another thing I never looked at it through gendered lenses was because the excruciating  pains, the financial burden, the stigma, the discrimination and the hospital stays and near death experiences know no gender. They affect both men and women in equal measure though in varying degrees.

That notwithstanding, when we look at the socio-economic and cultural context of living with sickle cell disease, the stereotypes are very visible, thereby bringing in the gendered lenses. I will pinpoint a few examples of this to explain why I say so.

When it comes to economic empowerment and job opportunities, the male sickle cell warrior is more likely to get that education, that job, that opportunity and why not, an even better pay than the female warrior. This is because the view is that he is a man. Forget the fact that female warriors face practically the same challenges living with sickle cell. The male with get that upper hand, worse if they have to talk about their health before having the job. Many more female sickle cell warriors have to hide their health status than men when looking for a job, have to wake up after a sleepless night to be at work because they are afraid of being fired by their boss, especially if they work with one who isn’t aware of their health status and is not open minded enough. In the educational domain, parents would most likely invest on their male warrior than the female because they believe the male have a far better chance at success. This has led to many impoverished, unemployed and less empowered female sickle cell warriors.

Socio-culturally, though both sexes face stigma and discrimination, the male sickle cell warrior is more likely to get married and raise a family than a female warrior. To be sure, both men and women warriors get married and raise families. However, the percentage of men is far higher than those of women.  On the aspect of being their own person, the male warrior is more likely to get the go ahead to cut off the apron strings and embrace an independent life style than the female. In a society where many still believe a single woman living alone is most likely a loose woman, many sickle cell warrior women with no source of income or even with a source of income but no significant other are forced to stay with their families until such a time their prince charming comes to sweep them off. When that doesn’t happen, they may either fight for themselves or live a permanent dependency life on their families. This leads to depression and sadness as the ability to exploit whatever talent they have is permanently suppressed. For the male warrior, he is pushed to pursue an independent lifestyle to prepare him for the future because he is after all, a MAN.

Maybe there are other instances where gender stereotypes come in when we look at the lives of sickle cell warriors. These three instances are the ones that come readily to mind when I think about the question of that young warrior on gender stereotypes in sickle cell. Everything considered, I believe female sickle cell warriors pay double for being female and warriors in a society that already look down on women and people with some form of disability or chronic health situation.

It is for this reason that the more I hear women caring for or living with sickle cell talk about their everyday challenges, the more  I  think of ways I can best empower female sickle cell warriors as I carry on my break the silence campaign. It is for this reason we have to keep speaking up. We have to join our collective voices to break the silence around sickle cell anaemia and by so doing, break the taboos, the restrictions placed on female warriors, the stigma, and the stereotypes and empower more female sickle cell warriors to find their worth and be productive members of their communities and the world at large.

 

How many people have you impacted since your last update?

3

Comments 16

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Jill Langhus
Jul 19, 2018
Jul 19, 2018

Hi Arrey,

Thanks for sharing your informative post about how gender affects those with sickle cell anemia. It's sad, but I'm glad you are actively trying to help women to overcome these stigmas and to become stronger warriors.

Hope you're having a great day:-)

ARREY- ECHI
Jul 20, 2018
Jul 20, 2018

Hi JLanghus,

Thank you for the ever ready kind and encouraging words. Gender stereotypes are common in many health conditions in my part of the world. I am glad I am able to use my experience to help other women. My hope is that many would be empowered enough to break the silence and start speaking out against these stereotypes which mitigate against them and make life difficult in addition to the already challenging situations of living with a chronic health condition.

My day is great thank you. Hope you too. Warm hugs from Cameroon.

Jill Langhus
Jul 19, 2018
Jul 19, 2018

You're welcome:-) I'm glad that you are able to use your experiences to help other women, too:-) That sounds like a good desire. I wish that, too. Good to hear. Yes, thanks:-)

ARREY- ECHI
Jul 20, 2018
Jul 20, 2018

Thank you. Glad you are good. Out to impact and change perceptions, one woman a time, we go. A very blessed weekend ahead.

Jill Langhus
Jul 20, 2018
Jul 20, 2018

You're welcome:-) Thanks. You, too!!!

Stephanie Mah
Jul 20, 2018
Jul 20, 2018

Hi Arrey,

Thanks for sharing your experience and how you have been working had to brake the silence of sickle cell,emagin even momen look down on other women, then how more of those with health problems? So we as women most take it up then the world will hear us.more strainght to you my sister.

ARREY- ECHI
Jul 20, 2018
Jul 20, 2018

Hi Stephanie, Thank you for reading through and for the kind words. That's right. Many women continue to look down on other women and it gets worse when those have a health issue. It is up to us women to keep doing what we can to change the narrative and make women start being their sister's keepers. Thanks again. Blessed weekend to you.

Jane Frances Mufua
Jul 20, 2018
Jul 20, 2018

Dear Arrey.

Thanks for taking the lead in raising awareness on sickle Cell Anemia. Yes until will understand that there is a gendered dimension to every thing around us, we will not address that issue of equality. Keep the good work going.

ARREY- ECHI
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Dear Jane, Thank you very much. You are right. Consciously or unconsciously, we live in a gendered world and this grossly affects women especially those who have to deal with health situations in addition to being women. Thank you once again. Arrey

Marietta
Jul 26, 2018
Jul 26, 2018

INTERESTING

ARREY- ECHI
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Thank you very much.

Ngwa Damaris
Aug 01, 2018
Aug 01, 2018

Arrey-Echi........Its a good innitiative.I wish you good luck .You could work with Bukula from Nigeria as she has a smilar project on Jaundice .Once more............ all the best:)

ARREY- ECHI
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Dear Damaris, Thank you very much,. I will search her out. Thanks again, Love,

obioma nwachukwu
Aug 24, 2018
Aug 24, 2018

Hi Arrey

Good job you are doing there keep it up indeed those our sisters need love and care need the assurance that they can still be what they desire to be in life. Well done.

obioma nwachukwu
Aug 24, 2018
Aug 24, 2018

Hi Arrey

Good job you are doing there keep it up indeed those our sisters need love and care need the assurance that they can still be what they desire to be in life. Well done.

Obioma 

ARREY- ECHI
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Dear Obioma, Thank you. You are right, we all need love and assurance and support that we can notwithstanding what challenges we may have, still be what we desire to be in life. I appreciate the kind words. Hugs from Cameroon,