Calverton, MD – While International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women worldwide, it is also a time to acknowledge the challenges women confront every day. For women in developing countries, many of these challenges are health-related. Worldwide, women struggle with anemia, lack of family planning services, sexually transmitted infections, and domestic violence.
Since 1984, the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) have interviewed more than one million women in 70 countries about these and other significant health issues. Collectively, the DHS surveys offer some of the most reliable data for measuring, understanding, and tracking women’s health and well-being worldwide.
DHS provides valuable evidence to support this year’s United Nations’ theme, “Ending Impunity for Violence against Women.” Recent surveys in 10 countries found between 20 and 50 percent of women had experienced some form of violence from their husband or partner. Even more disturbing, more than one-third of women believe husbands are justified in beating their wives for various reasons, such as burning food, refusing sex or neglecting the children. In the 2003 Kenya DHS, for example, 68 percent of women surveyed believed that husbands were justified in beating their wives for at least one reason.
Several DHS comparative reports underscore the prevalence of domestic violence worldwide. They include Profiling Domestic Violence: A Multi-Country Study, and Women’s Lives and Experiences: Changes in the Past Ten Years. Further analysis shows that violence is detrimental to women’s overall health. Both publications can be downloaded from the MEASURE DHS website.
This website also features a special focus section on Gender, which highlights more significant findings about women. Upcoming DHS surveys will gather new information about domestic violence in India, Cambodia, and Zimbabwe. All DHS reports, fact sheets, and data sets can be downloaded free of charge from the website.
Administered by Macro International Inc., the MEASURE DHS project helps developing countries collect reliable population and health data through individual interviews conducted in peoples’ homes. DHS surveys are nationally-representative household surveys and have large sample sizes (usually between 5,000 and 30,000 households). The DHS project is primarily funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which also supports broader efforts to end violence against women.