Women Leaders in Global Health Conference 2018

The Women Leaders in Global Health Conference was born from frustration many women working in global health felt when seeing the lack of women and diverse leadership in their field.

Women make up 70% of global health force but hold just 30% of leadership positions, and many felt the urge to direct an international spotlight on the matter.

This urge became a reality in October 2017 with the 1st WLGH Conference, hosted at Stanford University.

This year, the 2nd Conference was hosted in the UK by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Longer and richer in content, there were 2 days of panel discussions and vibrant exchange among women – and men – who work in different areas of global health.

Credit: @drawingchange

One of the main figures of this year’s conference was the former Minister of Health of Peru, Dr Patty J. Garcia. Patty is a scientist and an expert in Public Health who decided to take a new leadership position when the Prime Minister of Peru, Pedro P. Kuczynski, called her to offer her one of the most important roles in the country.

She worked within the government of Peru from July 2016 to September 2017, achieving important public health goals such as access to contraceptives for adolescent girls, availability of emergency contraception and rise in vaccination coverage.

Credit: Giorgia Dalla Libera Marchiori

She said that she would have never imagined she would be involved in politics, and even less to become a minister, but that “we need to take opportunities as women”. She took the lead and decided she would use her position to make the changes Peru needed.

Sometimes you are invited to the table and you just have to sit down and get to work. Most of the time, however, you need to open your folding chair and make space for yourself at the table. If no one makes space for your folding chair – “you sit on the table”, suggests Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, Chief Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria.

Women have great expertise, but too often don’t believe in themselves, because the patriarchal society we live in has taught us to look down, apologize and not be a ‘bi**ch’. Women and men need to rethink gender roles and move towards an equal society, where gender, place of birth, sexual orientation or disability will not count anymore, only competence will. 

Around 100 speakers participated in this year’s conference, bringing different perspectives which animated the discussion in so many ways. Dr Ola Abu Alghaib, Director of Global Influencing and Research at Leonard Cheshire Disability, told the audience of her personal experience with disability and finding her leadership role as a person with disability.

Her life is a proof of resilience. She has achieved what she wanted, including doing a job she is passionate about and having her own family. Many told her that as a disabled woman she would not be able to reach those goals, but she decided early on to lead her life in the direction she wanted. Women with disabilities need to be part of the conversation, Ola says, because there is no equity if we, as women, are the first to exclude some of us from the running.

Every woman can be a leader.

This is the philosophy behind one of the best universities in the African continent, the Ahfad University in Sudan. Professor Nafisa M. Bedri explained how their university, founded originally as a girls school by her grandfather, Babiker Bedri, aims to form future women leaders in Sudan.

Investing in women’s education and shaping women’s roles in society is challenging, because of cultural and religious beliefs, but the benefits are tangible and impact our entire society. 

One concept shared loudly and proudly at the end of this gathering was well summarized by Ayoade: “my ceiling has to be your floor”. This means that whatever we do, it has to create better opportunities and a world free from inequities for the generations to come, for all the girls who are dreaming big and should never have their wings cut off.

See you all next year in Rwanda for WLGH 3.0!

In the meantime, find your opportunity to become a leader in your group, community, work place, country. Don’t wait, act. And while doing it, “ensure that your significant other (whether a woman or a man) is a feminist” – Professor Sarah Hawkes, Co-Director of Global Health 50/50.

Speak Out Against Cutting

Written by: Jaha Dukureh


Photo Credit: Jaha Dukureh
Photo Credit: Jaha Dukureh

My name is Jaha Dukureh.

I am 24 years old.

I am a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM).

I now live in Atlanta, Georgia, but when I was a baby in Gambia, my parents asked a family friend to perform the ritual on me. That day, I was robbed of a part of my femininity.  Since I have started speaking out against FGM, I have met many other girls who have been cut. Not all their stories are like mine.

Many of these girls are American.

They are girls who were born and live in the United States where nearly 200,000 girls are at risk of FGM. Yes, it is illegal, which is why many girls are subject to what is called vacation cutting. They are sent back to their parents’ home countries, where relatives arrange the ritual. Many of these girls are unaware of what is about to happen to them.

They are scarred and traumatised – physically and emotionally.

Girls are told the cutting ritual is a transition into womanhood. However, for the rest of their lives, they will struggle with pain and complications during their periods, sexual intercourse and childbirth. No girl should be subject to this pain.

When I first spoke out publicly against FGM, my family and friends were shocked and ashamed. They pressured me to stop. I almost gave into them. I was only one person – what could I accomplish?  I knew that no girl should be forced to cut her body. Although every day it happens to 6,000 girls.

I had to speak out.

I started a petition calling for an end to FGM in the United States. I have found inspiration in other brave women who have spoken out against this abuse and are taking action to create change. These brave women motivated me to join a rising campaign called Honor Diaries  a film and a movement whose aim is to stop the violence that women experience in the name of honor and tradition.

The courageous women in this film speak on behalf of their own issues and the struggles of so many women and girls. Through their support, I realize I cannot give up this fight.

We live in a free country. Why should these girls have less freedom than we do?

Why don’t more of us stand up and say something? The girls who undergo vacation cutting are not far away. They live in your neighborhood. These girls are your friends, classmates and colleagues.

We cannot remain silent while they suffer. Please watch Honor Diaries – the stories you will hear are sad and horrific. The women are hopeful and courageous. They will inspire you to get involved. Together we can make the world a better place for their daughters, my daughters and for your own.

Sign my petition here: End FGM Now

Cover Photo Credit: Heal the Cuts 

An Interview With Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank

At the Women Deliver Conference, I had the pleasure to interview Jeni Klugman, the Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank. Answering questions related to accountability, the Women Deliver Conference, and correct data, Klugman provided Girls’ Globe with excellent insight on issues concerning gender and development.


EE: Hi I’m Elisabeth from Girls’ Globe and I’m here today interviewing Jeni Klugman, the Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank. So question number 1, Jeni:

How can we ensure effective accountability for service providers to monitor outcomes in reproductive and maternal health?

JK: Well, accountability is a key part of the equation. Too often, services are of poor quality, staff is not there, supplies are not there. Different mechanisms are being used to try to improve accountability. There are what we can call long routes and short routes. So, long route is by the ballot box, so holding the government accountable. But it is a long route and elections may not be very frequent or they may not be entirely fair in the whole country. So short routes enable more direct feedback. Some of the examples include publishing data about the amount of money that a clinic receives, [and] enabling complaints to be made directly to the clinics or directly to government officials in the area.

EE: And promoting local governance? Is that also something?

JK: Yea, no accountable local government is an important part of the equation as well.

EE: Ok, great.

Question 2: What do you hope the major outcome of the Women Deliver Conference will be?

JK: Well it’s clearly a major conference. I think that the mere fact of getting so many thousands of people together who are passionate about improving maternal health and promoting gender equality more broadly is a major achievement in itself. I think moving the agenda forward in particular ways, [and] recognition of the economic costs of the interrelationships among the different dimensions of gender equality. But I think also the connections among people are very important as well.

EE: Definitely.

Question 3: For women and girls in the most rural, hard-to-reach populations, how do you ensure correct data?

JK: That’s a major challenge. We know that, for the countries that have the worst records in terms of maternal and child health, indeed that data is also the worst. So [there are] different ways of combating that issue [where it] exists. There are short term efforts, so you can [have] a kind of  survey and collect some data and then you know [the data] for a particular point in time. But I think, more importantly, it is critical to build the capacity, the underlying capacity of the local administration and local statistical systems so that they can collect birth [and] death registrations on a routine basis.

EE: So they can collect it themselves. Right.

Well, thanks so much for watching our video with Jeni Klugman, and if you are interested in viewing more of our Women Deliver coverage, please feel free to explore our website and enjoy! Thank you.

Image Courtesy of Women Deliver
Image Courtesy of Women Deliver

For more videos of Jeni Klugman at the Women Deliver Conference, please see below:

Plenary: Investing in Women’s Reproductive Health Equals Investing in Economic and Social Progress for Everyone

Press Conference Day 1: Investing in Girls & Women

The Facts about Abortions

47,000 women die each year due to unsafe abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute recently released this new video about abortion, using the facts found in their many years of research.

Abortion is a very sensitive subject, and in many countries it is illegal. Still, 40 million abortions will be taking place this year alone, most of which will  be unsafe and have a horrific impact on the women’s lives. But isn’t the silence around this subject DEADLY? We want to encourage dialogue, discussion and an openness around the subject of abortion.

What do you say?

Let your voice be heard in the comments field below.

The featured image for this post is Pro-Abortionist Bill Baird, demonstrating outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1984. (AP/David Pickoff)

Maternal Deaths – New Status Report

Maternal Mortality is declining.

This is what evidence shows in a new report released by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank. “Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2010” states that the estimated amount of maternal deaths have decreased 47 % over two decades. The global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) has declined from 400 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births to 210 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births during the same time period.

The study also looks into the reproductive health indicators, such as unmet need for contraception, use of contraception, antenatal care, and deliveries by skilled birth attendants. Globally, all of these indicators show a positive trend. However, as we have seen in other recent reports, these figures vary within regions and within countries.

Although there has been a huge decrease, with impressive figures, the development is not equal. Still over 56 % of the deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 29 % in Southern Asia. 11 countries show no progress in improving maternal health in the countries. Out of these 11 countries, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa, Somalia, Lesotho, Guyana, Congo, Chad, Cameron and Botswana actually have increased levels of maternal mortality compared with the rates of twenty years earlier. Out of these countries Chad and Somalia have rates of 1000 or more maternal deaths per 100 000 live births.

A woman in Sub-Saharan Africa faces a 1 in 39 lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. Yet, so many of these deaths can be prevented by simple measures.

So this brings me back the the question:

Should surviving childbirth be a lottery?

I certainly believe that it should not. We need to continue to strive towards an increased level of awareness, capacity-building and training of midwives, access to affordable essential and life-saving medicines, access to contraceptives and family-planning services, and ultimately the empowerment of women in their societies, to become equal in decision-making in the community, in the household and over their own bodies.

800 women are still dying every day during pregnancy or child-birth.

Let’s do more to save lives.

The featured image of this post is from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Blog, Impatient Optimists.

Quote #5

Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998. In his literature and studies he continuously emphasizes the importance of empowering women to reach sustainable development. He also highlights the many positive spill-over effects, in society and in individual households, of empowering women.

Note: The featured image to this post is taken from the Official Website of the Nobel Prize, where you can read Sen’s own autobiography.