Women & Gender

 {Photo by Catherine Lalonde/MSH}Youth in Mali, with support from Family Care International, performed plays to tell the stories of persons living with HIV/AIDS.Photo by Catherine Lalonde/MSH

“In 509 days, my country will go to the ballot box, and I will be running for office in Kenya,” announced Stephanie Musho, a law student and staffer at a global health non-profit. Musho made this bold statement while speaking on a panel of young African women leaders during the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March.

“But first, I have to tell you a story about what it means to be a woman candidate,” she sighed. “I’ve worked hard for my campaign. I’ve met with constituents and partners to get their support and raise money. I approached two potential contributors, who were men, and they said ‘With a body like that, you shouldn’t have any problem raising money.’ I knew what they were insinuating, and I can’t believe this is still happening. But I’m not going to let that stop me.”

Musho was one of fifteen advocates from the Moremi Initiative, a women’s leadership institute in Ghana, sharing personal stories of working to effect change in their communities and for the women in their countries. Their stories provided poignant context for the challenges they faced and the triumphs they experienced.

 {Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu}Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, Country Director, MSH Nigeria, is interviewed at the 10th anniversary event.Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) celebrated 10 Years of Improving the Health of Women and Children in Nigeria with 250 stakeholders and supporters at a special event in Abuja on March 31, 2016. Distinguished guests included the chairman of the Nigerian House of Representatives, director of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria, high-level representatives from state governments and partner organizations, and more.

After a rousing rendition of “Arise, Oh Compatriots,” the Nigerian national anthem, Country Director, Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, welcomed participants and underscored the intention for the day’s two round-table panel discussions:

In Nigeria, 150 women and 2,300 children die every day from preventable causes. One in five children won’t live to see their fifth birthday. This event can help continue conversations on what we can do to end preventable deaths among women, children, and young people.

Currently, MSH’s partnerships for health system strengthening in Nigeria reach nearly 560,000 people through four projects.

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{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman

A woman. A newborn. A child. In many countries, their basic health and rights are tenuous. These women, newborns, and children are the health system.

A woman is ostracized: abandoned by her husband, her family, and her community. She suffered a fistula after giving birth to her son. After 20-plus years, an operation repairs her fistula; now, she is teaching again, and a part of the community.

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 {Photo credit: MSH Ethiopia}Atsede Tefera recalls three months of long delays in the diagnosis of tuberculosis for her daughter Nigist, who was eventually able to initiate treatment.Photo credit: MSH Ethiopia

When my daughter got sick, I took her to a clinic in my neighborhood. They gave her cough syrup for seven days.

I thought she was getting better, but it was apparent that she was still ill. After another examination, they referred her to St. Paul Hospital in Addis Ababa where they put her on oxygen and started taking blood sample after sample and injection after injection for a month. Her condition did not get better so they gave her another medicine. The doctors then decided to take blood from her back… only then did they know it was tuberculosis.

~ Atsede Tefera

Tuberculosis (TB) kills more people each year than any other infectious disease, causing over 1.5 million deaths globally. More than a quarter of cases are in Africa, the region with the highest burden of TB disease relative to population. Children are amongst the most vulnerable, and all too often children with TB remain in the shadows, undiagnosed, uncounted, and untreated. Today, more than 53 million children worldwide are infected with TB and over 400 die each day from this preventable and curable disease. 

Caren Wakoli, member of the East Africa Women's Mentoring Network, presents at the International Conference on Family Planning. (Photo: Sarah McKee/MSH)Caren Wakoli, member of the East Africa Women's Mentoring Network, presents at the International Conference on Family Planning. (Photo: Sarah McKee/MSH)

And a happy International Women’s Day to you too. Every year, on March 8, activists, organizations, and officials celebrate advancements in women’s rights; however, despite global advocacy and action, women continue to suffer a disproportionate burden of disease and death.

If health systems are expected to deliver responsive and high-quality health services that can end preventable child and maternal deaths, then governments, organizations, and leaders must first address women’s continued underrepresentation in health leadership, management, and governance.

Frankly put, expanding women’s health leadership requires a health system-wide approach that collaborates with individuals, organizations, and governments. For the LMG Project, this means building individual women’s leadership capacity, highlighting the importance of women in health governance, and mainstreaming gender at all levels of a health system.

 {Photo credit: MSH Nigeria}Some members of the Amdo Health Club in Billiri, Gombe StatePhoto credit: MSH Nigeria

It isn’t easy being a woman–or a girl–in Nigeria.

I grew up in a little village in the North where the tradition was very patriarchal. But my family was quite revolutionary. My father, right from the beginning, supported all of his children to go to school. When he got ill, he told my mother:  ‘You must promise me this: If I’m not around, and you are forced to choose between who to send to school, always choose the girl. The boy will inherit the land; he will always have a livelihood. The girl, she is not allowed to inherit anything; the girl child needs an education to find a livelihood for herself. '

It’s the opposite of what everyone thought! This is how I learned to lead.

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