Lymphatic filariasis and the women of India.
Lymphatic filariasis is a disease of the poor and underprivileged and has received little attention in the past. In particular, there has been a lack of gender sensitive research on women and lymphatic filariasis. Women suffer from lymphatic filariasis to a great extent but embarrassment, shame, cultural constraints and social taboos are some of the reasons that refrain them from reporting problems and seeking help. Women are thus silently bearing the brunt of this disease. This study has tried to obtain basic information on women and lymphatic filariasis with a gender approach. To understand the consequence of lymphatic filariasis on women in India, a holistic framework was used for this study, which encompasses all issues in women's lives such as their perspective on the disease, their role as social and economic entities and their relationships with others; in addition to their reproductive role. A qualitative approach using the technique of informal interview was used for this research. Eighty-eight women and 39 children were interviewed, during home visits and at clinics, primary health care centers and schools in both urban and rural areas in India. The study has obtained the much needed information on the knowledge of lymphatic filariasis among women in India, the impact of the disease on the women which include the social and economic aspects, clinic attendance and the barriers to health care for women with the disease, and women's awareness regarding control programs for lymphatic filariasis. The study also found how women cope with the disabilities or other manifestations of the disease. This paper discusses lymphatic filariasis using a gender sensitive approach. It reviews the literature, describes the study, analyzes the results and suggests feasible disease control programs for women with a multisectoral approach.