Photo blog: WOMEN LEAD with…

A version of this post originally appeared on the blog.

(Photos by Sarah Lindsay, Rachel Hassinger, Willow Gerber, and Barbara Ayotte / MSH)

The theme of the first day of Women Deliver 2013 was Investing in Women and Girls. During the day, MSH and the Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) project held a panel on investing in women as leaders of the health system.

At the MSH booth, we asked conference attendees to tell us the diverse ways women lead around the world.

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Women persevere. Women are resourceful. Women LEAD.

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Belkis Giorgis speaks at the LMG panel. [Photo credit: S. Lindsay/MSH]

Belkis Giorgis speaks at the LMG panel. [Photo credit: S. Lindsay/MSH]

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Belkis Giorgis was in North Nigeria at a health clinic. At this clinic, Giorgis asked the midwives why women continue to prefer to deliver their babies at home. The midwives told her that the clinic throws away the placenta after delivery, while giving birth at home allowed the women to bury their placenta as is traditionally done. Giorgis then inquired why the midwives did not fix this seemingly easy obstacle. “I don’t have a voice,” the midwife said. “The men [at the clinic] say the women should get over it.”

It was this visit that led Giorgis to wonder: What if women were the health leaders? Would services be more women friendly?

Giorgis’ story set the foundation for LMG’s panel, “Women Deliver as those who Manage, Lead, and Govern for Health,” on Wednesday, May 29, at the Women Deliver 2013 Conference. Joining Giorgis on the panel moderated by LMG director Dr. Jim Rice was Honorable Ruth Nvumetta Kavuma, former parliamentarian in Uganda, Constance Newman, senior team leader of gender equality and health at IntraHealth, and Dr. Narjis Rizvi, an assistant professor at Aga Khan University.

The diverse panel clearly illustrated that women are not well represented in leadership positions in health systems. In Kenya, Newman said, 43% of the health workforce is male, but 77% of these men are in senior leadership positions. Conversely, women are 57% of the health workforce, but make up only 23% of senior leaders in Kenya’s health sector.

Explaining this pattern, Newman said, “Women and girls face a force field of accumulating inequalities and disadvantage starting at their primary school years and continuing to their retirement years.”

Rizvi reported a similar pattern in Pakistan, “Despite Pakistan’s laws and constitution and the work of the Aga Khan Development Network, women are still underrepresented in senior leadership positions.”

The panelists, however, were adamant that this pattern can change.

“We need to put women in leadership positions. Let them make the mistakes. The men make mistakes, but when women make the mistakes, people act like it’s the worst thing in the world. We need to support them through these mistakes,” Kavuma told the crowd. Supporting women’s confidence in the public eye is key to building strong women leaders, she stated.

And it’s not just up to women to make the change. Giorgis said:

“There are many opportunities [to advance women’s leadership], start by making sure we put forward the justification that women can lead. Women are resourceful. Women persevere. Women are capable of leading. It requires advocacy not only from women, but from men as well.”

“Change the behavior, ideas, and lenses that men see women leaders through,” Rice said, and we will see progress.

Rice and Newman ended the panel with a request for evidence. “We want to move from anecdotes to rigorous impact studies,” Rice said.  Newman continued with a request for the audience: “Invest in participatory action research, where women look at the data of their own lives. Understand it, frame it, and build upon it.”

Sarah Lindsay is a communications specialist with LMG at MSH.

Join MSH at Women Deliver

MSH: Stronger Health Systems, Stronger Women & Children
Please join Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and our partners during these featured events at Women Deliver 2013.


Women Deliver and MSH Career Fair

We are proud to partner with Women Deliver to host a career fair on Wednesday, May 29. With so many individuals attending who are dedicated to working together for women, it is an opportune time to connect job seekers and job makers.

Jobs & Java – A Sunrise Conversation about Mid-Career Professional Advancement

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | 7:30am – 8:30am | Room 309

  • This session will kick off the all-day Career Fair with an interactive panel discussion and networking opportunity. Tea and coffee will be served.
  • Moderated by Leslie Duvall, MSH
  • Panelists
    • Jonathan Rucks, Pathfinder International
    • Suzanne Diarra, MSH

To The Point

Join MSH President and CEO Dr. Jonathan D. Quick on “Why universal health coverage is a women’s issue” at To The Point— A series of thought-provoking, passionate talks on the conference themes and a bit more (Please note change in date from Wednesday to Thursday).

Thursday, May 30, 2013 | 11:00am – 1:00pm | Plenary Hall

  • Moderator: Michelle Goldberg, Author, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of The World
  • Speakers
    • Feminism and family planning | Poonam Muttreja, Population Foundation of India (PFI)
    • Intimate Life in A Changing Arab World | Shereen El Feki, Author
    • Why universal health coverage is a women’s issue | Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, MSH
    • Effective advocacy for universal access to contraception | Valerie DeFillipo, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Reference Group
    • Why I perform abortions | Dr. Nozer Sheriar, International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO)
    • The price of defending freedom of expression | Mona Eltahawy, Columnist
    • Women and Micro Credit | Vicki Escarra, Opportunity International
    • Save Our Midwives; Save Our World | Ibu Robin Lim, Bumi Sahat Foundation
    • Don’t just do something; simply do everything | Dr. Imane Khachani, Maternity Hospital Les Orangers, National Reference Center in Reproductive Health
    • Faith, family planning and HIV | Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha, African Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV and AIDS (ANERELA), Uganda


Task Sharing and Task Shifting: Investing in Frontline Health Workers Pays in Lives Saved

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 | 11:30am – 1:00pm | Room 404

  • Moderated by Leo Bryant, Marie Stopes International (MSI)
  • Panelists
    • Fabio Castaño, MSH and Frontline Health Workers Coalition
    • Laura Hoemeke, IntraHealth International and CapacityPlus
    • Mengistu Asnake, Pathfinder International
    • Jameel Zamir, International Planned Parenthood Federation South Asia Regional Office

Women Deliver as Those Who Manage, Lead, and Govern for Health

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 | 2:45pm – 4:15pm | Room 305

  • Moderated by James Rice, Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project, MSH
  • Panelists
    • Fauziah Rabbani, Aga Khan University, Pakistan
    • Constance Newman, IntraHealth International
    • Hon. Ruth Kavuma Nuvumetta, Member of Parliament, Uganda
    • Belkis Giorgis, LMG Project, MSH, Ethiopia

Let Girls Be Girls, Not Brides: Working Together to End Child Marriage

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 | 2:45pm – 4:15pm | Room 306

  • Organized by Girls Not Brides, MSH, and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
  • Moderated by Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA
  • Panelists
    • Sarita Prabhakar Wagh, India
    • Suzanne Petroni, ICRW, USA
    • Lakshmi Sundaram, Girls Not Brides (global)


Community-Based Access to Injectables (CBA 2I)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 | 2:45pm – 4:15pm | Room 304

  • Moderated by Victoria Graham, Office of Population and Reproductive Health, USAID
  • Panelists
    • Morrisa Malkin, FHI 360
    • Vincent Kahi, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Kenya
    • Winifred Mwebesa, Save the Children USA
    • Bocar Daff, Ministry of Health, Senegal
    • Hedayetullah Mushfiq, Scaling Up Family Planning Program, MSH, Afghanistan
    • Sein Hlaing, IRC, Myanmar

Making Maternal and Newborn Health Safer in Humanitarian Crises

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 | 2:45pm – 4:15pm | Room 402

  • Organized by the Inter-Agency Working Grou p (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crisis.
  • Moderated by Susan Dentzer, Health Affairs
  • Panelists
    • Sandra Krause, Reproductive Health Programme, Women’s Refugee Commission
    • Kristin Cooney, MSH
    • Catrin Schulte-Hillen, Médecins Sans Frontières
    • Teresita Artiaga Elegado, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines

Financing Progress: Paying for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (RMNCH)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | 2:45pm – 4:15pm | Plenary Theatre

  • Moderated by Peter Berman, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health, USA
  • Panelists
    • Justine Hsu, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
    • Ravi Rannan-Eliya, Institute for Health Policy, Sri Lanka and Asia-Pacific National Health Accounts Network
    • Geir Lie, World Health Organization (WHO)
    • Dan Kraushaar, MSH
    • Henrik Axelson, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH)

Universal Health Coverage through Health Financing

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | 2:45pm – 4:15pm | Room 404

  • Moderated by France Donnay, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Panelists
    • Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, MSH
    • Peter Okwero, World Bank
    • Abdus Salam Khan, WHO South-East Asia Office (WHO-SEARO)
    • Ben Bellows, Population Council
    • Nirali Chakraborty, Population Services International (PSI)
    • Alysha Beyer, African Health Markets for Equity (AHME), MSI


Women play a crucial role in ensuring the health of communities. MSH builds the capacity of women as leaders and managers, health providers, and community health workers. For over 40 years, in more than 150 countries, MSH has promoted equal access to health care for women, men, girls, and boys. Our programs empower women, sensitize men, and integrate maternal, newborn, and child health, family planning and reproductive health, and HIV & AIDS services to improve access to quality care.

WOMEN LEAD: Strong Women Save Lives

Join us at Women Deliver’s 3rd Global Conference for more discussions on how Women Lead on Tuesday, May 28, and at the MSH booth: #277/283/284.

Belkis Giorgis

Belkis Giorgis

Strong Women Save Lives

At Management Sciences for Health (MSH), we say that leaders aren’t born: Leadership is learned.

If we only look to those in official positions of power, whether in the health system or in political offices, we may be missing the most influential leaders to develop and empower: the women in the households and on the frontlines of the health system.

Head of household

As health caretaker for her family, a woman requires all the characteristics of a good leader. She has to multi-task, prioritize, negotiate, manage, inspire, and persuade. The stakes are high: the strength of her leadership can ensure the survival of her family.

Empowering women on the frontlines

Women are more likely to work on the frontlines of the health system but less likely to hold formal positions of leadership in the health system.

While much of the health worker data in developing countries is not disaggregated by gender, one study in Ethiopia found men accounted for 80 percent of clinicians and specialists—those at the top of the health worker pyramid.

Women health practitioners are more likely to face discrimination based on marital status, be expected to conform to male work models, be subjected to harassment and violence while working, and be employed in low and entry level positions. Furthermore, women often are compensated poorly, resulting in a cadre of quasi-volunteerism: unpaid or underpaid. In all industries combined, women are compensated at a rate of 40 percent less than men for their work.

A woman talks with Belkis (right). (Photo credit: Dominic Chavez)

A woman talks with Belkis (right). (Photo credit: Dominic Chavez)

The personal safety of women health care workers is also a primary concern in many countries. Women are often subjected to harassment or sexual violence as health workers. One Rwandan study found 39 percent of health workers experienced some form of workplace violence. This affects recruitment as well as retention of women in critical health care positions.

And the global need for more skilled health workers is great. Over 70 percent of maternal mortality in developing countries could be prevented if every woman had access to a skilled health worker when giving birth.

Despite these global hardships, women are major contributors to positive health outcomes, from promoting health in the household, to reducing maternal and child mortality in communities.

My colleague, Celia Tusiime Kakande, blogged about this on International Women’s Day:

“For most of my life, women in Uganda—as in most countries—were treated as inferior to men. Girls were less likely to be educated than their brothers, and had little control over the direction of their lives Many girls grew up being told how to act, eat, and talk; many women were regarded as little more than domestic caregivers.

Women in Uganda now hold more leadership positions than ever before—35 percent of the seats in Parliament are now occupied by women, and our Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Health are women. Quality family planning, safe motherhood, and HIV & AIDS services have helped lower the maternal mortality rate from 435 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 310 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010.

This translates to 1,700 women’s lives saved each year.” 

Celia Tusiime Kakande

Celia Tusiime Kakande

Empowering leaders

At MSH, our work to advance the well-being of women and girl extends to leadership development, clinical training, technical assistance to programs that use community health workers (most of whom are women) and literacy programs. Through one five-year project, MSH trained or provided technical assistance to more than 4,000 senior female leaders and engaged 27,000 women in learning programs.

It’s not only about getting women to leadership and management positions, but also making sure that women see themselves as leaders wherever they are in the health system. If a woman is impacting the life and wellbeing of others, then she is a leader.

As Celia said:

“Ugandan women have gained ground at the highest levels of leadership. They are taking control of their lives and their families’ health.”

It is this spirit that inspires MSH to continue our work in Uganda, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and in over 60 countries worldwide.

By creating, legitimizing and empowering women leaders, we will empower beneficiaries of the health system, save lives, and improve health outcomes for all.

Follow this blog and hashtags #WOMENLEAD and #WD2013 on Twitter @MSHHealthImpact for live updates from Kuala Lampur. We are a proud gold sponsor.

Belkis Giorgis, PhD, is senior technical advisor for the Leadership, Management and Governance Project, led by MSH. Celia Tusiime Kakande, MA, is Chief of Party of STRIDES for Family Health, a project led by MSH.

(Portions of this post were published on the MSH Global Health Impact blog.)