Gender Equality Tag

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Four Ways Global Health Organizations Can Correct the Gender Imbalance in Their Own Leadership—and Beyond

This blog post was originally posted on the IntraHealth International website. The post is written by Constance Newman, senior team leader on gender equality and health at IntraHealth International; P.K. Chama of the Catholic Medical Mission Board in Lusaka, Zambia; M. Mugisha of QD Consult Ltd. in Kampala, Uganda; C.W. Matsiko of MATSLINE Consult Ltd. in Kampala, Uganda; and Vincent Oketcho, Uganda country director at IntraHealth.

Image credit: IntraHealth International

Women make up the vast majority of the workforce in healthcare worldwide and in the field of global health, but relatively few fill senior leadership roles in these sectors. A new article published in Global Health, Epidemiology, and Genomics offers guidance on how global health organizations can help change this.

Gender stereotyping, discrimination and cultural roles often prevent women from reaching positions of highest authority, according to the authors of “Reasons behind Current Gender Imbalances in Senior Global Health Roles and the Practice and Policy Changes that Can Catalyze Organizational Change”.

For instance, women make up 75% of the health workforce in many countries, but only 25% of leadership roles. Only 31% of the world’s ministers of health are women. And at the 2015 World Health Assembly, only 23% of chief delegates of member state delegations were led by women.

Global health organizations face the same imbalances. While women make up the vast majority of global health students (up to 84%), they hold only 24% of global health faculty positions among the top 50 US universities and a quarter of directorships in global health centers.

But global health organizations can become beacons of analysis and change. They can also play a key role in helping us reach Sustainable Development Goal 5: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

The authors offer several key steps organizations can take to correct these imbalances, including:

Conduct participatory organizational gender analyses: These can help pinpoint the processes, mechanisms, and structures—such as glass ceilings and gender stereotypes related to reproductive roles—that keep women from rising to leadership roles. Governance leaders, human resources (HR) managers, and employees should all be involved and should share their findings widely.

Identify the harms of gender stereotyping and implement strategies to eradicate them. One example comes from a focus group response the authors received during a gender analysis in Zambia: “Men have a biological make-up that makes them vulnerable to appearance…” the male respondent said. “I think there are some cases where women are really suggestively dressed, and it is difficult because it creates an environment which is very hard…because men mostly, we go for what we see.”

Societal stereotypes like these make their way into the workplace and keep women from reaching leadership roles. Of course, changing such conceptions in society is a task beyond any one organization, the authors say, but the first step to organizational change is to challenge them. Organizations can raise awareness of the harmful effects of stereotypes at work and help build their employees’ capacity to challenge such stereotypes.

Use substantive equality principles in organizational governance and HR management. Setting targets, establishing quotas, taking steps toward affirmative mobilization and fairness can all mitigate the impact of discrimination and help correct gender imbalances.

Put special measures and enabling conditions in place. Consider the issue of paid family leave. Taking paternity leave, the authors write, “can put male employees who might opt for it at as much risk of being stigmatized as the female employees who, in leaving work early to work the ‘second shift’ at home, may be stigmatized as less productive and reliable. There are therefore built-in (organizational) cultural disincentives for both women and men to use these arrangements which must be addressed in communications and incentives for their use.”

Organizations should not design family leave on an individual basis, the authors say. Instead, they should create family-friendly policies for the long-term—and with a firm understanding of the gender dynamics at play.

Read the full article to learn more.

Insights to Action – Navigating the Intersection between Gender and Adolescent Mental Health

Organized by International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

September 13
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
ICRW, 1120 20th St NW, Suite 500N,
Washington, DC


Girls are at increased risk due to unequal access to resources, decision-making power and education; gender-based violence; and discriminatory practices like child marriage. Few programs and policies have effectively addressed the mental health and well-being needs of adolescents, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Further, existing programs and policies rarely take gender into account or reach the most marginalized.

Join ICRW to discuss the intersection between gender and adolescent mental health.


Educating Communities on the Importance of Menstrual Hygiene

This blog post was written by Lanice Williams, Policy Associate, Global Health Council. 

Girls at Kula Amuka Primary School in Anaka, Uganda, hold up sanitary pads that will help them stay in school. © 2012 Caroline Nguyen/GLOBEMED AT UCLA, Courtesy of Photoshare

Have you ever imagined not having access to a toilet or running water during your period? Or not having access to sanitary menstrual items? Or how to deal with the feelings of shame, embarrassment, or isolation due to your period? These are situations that many of us do not think about, but they are the reality for many women and girls living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

On any given day, more than 800 million women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating anywhere from two to seven days. While menstruation is a normal and integral part of life, in many regions of the world menstruating women and girls are often viewed as “impure” and “contaminated.” Many of the views that individuals, including men and boys, have about menstruation are due to lack of knowledge on menstruation, cultural practices, religious beliefs, and social myths about interacting with women during their period.  This is especially common in rural areas where women are prohibited from touching food that others may eat, isolated from their family home, and not allowed to attend school due to the shame associated with their menstruation.  In addition to the negative cultural attitudes and taboos, there are additional challenges associated with menstruation ranging from personal management of periods to issues such as reproductive and sexual health and gender-based violence, which affect girls and women and their roles in their communities.

A number of organizations, governments, and individuals are addressing the issues related to menstrual health by mobilizing others to get involved, breaking practices that at times violate the rights of women, and ensuring that more awareness and education are provided on menstruation.

One country that has deep cultural taboos around menstrual hygiene is Nepal. In the far western region of the country, the harmful tradition of “chhaupadi” — when menstruating women and girls are isolated into separate huts or cowsheds – is practiced. This practice is harmful because many women and girls are denied nutritious food, prevented from bathing and accessing clean water sources used by villagers, and vulnerable to the heightened risk of sexual assault. Although the Nepal Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that chhaupadi was illegal, there are some remote districts in the country where the ruling is rarely enforced. However, several organizations are working within rural communities in Nepal to ensure that this practice is fully abolished.

One such organization is Restless Development Nepal, who, along with its partners KIRDARC and PEACEWIN, addresses discrimination against menstruating females by raising awareness among community leaders, men, and boys. Through the organization’s programmatic approach designed to reduce the prevalence of chhaupadi and provide social support and education to women during their menstruation, employees have trained over 130 peer educators, reduced the prevalence of women sleeping in chhaupadi huts from 20 percent to 5 percent, and provided educational activities to over 20,000 women and girls as well as 15,000 boys and men.

Other organizations such as Plan International, AFRIpads, and Days for Girls work in various countries, such as Uganda and India, to ensure that effective menstrual hygiene management includes a comprehensive approach of addressing women’s immediate needs of sanitary products and menstrual health-appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities. These approaches in turn lead to women managing their menstrual health free of shame and guilt.

As a community we must ensure that menstrual hygiene management and education are incorporated more into water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), education and sexual and reproductive health programs in LMICs. Doing so allows women and girls to become more confident in managing their menstrual hygiene; helps them stay in school to further their education and economic trajectory in society; and allows them to have a future free from discrimination.

While Menstrual Hygiene Day is recognized each year on May 28, it should not only be limited to this day. We must ensure that education about menstruation and the removal of the stigma around menstruation continues to occur around the world daily. To learn more, join the conversation on Twitter using #MenstruationMatters.

Girl Strong: Promoting global access to water, sanitation and hygiene for women and girls everywhere

This year, WaterAid was #GirlStrong for #WorldWaterDay for the women and girls who spend 40 billion hours collecting water every, single year. Girl Strong highlights a renewed commitment to the incredible strength women and girls all over the world are forced to exhibit on a daily basis.

Girl Strong isn’t just a catchy slogan or convenient hashtag. It is an integrated campaign that seeks to ensure that every woman and girl has access to clean water, a safe toilet and proper hygiene services, through awareness raising with the public and advocacy across the country. Girl Strong is a call to action to promote sustainable solutions and help women and girls unlock their potential by ensuring they have these basic human rights.

Chan Srey Nuch, 31, with her daughters Thea Sreyneang, 6 (red and white top) and Thea Sreyno, 3, (red and blue top). Srey Nuch worries that her children may drown in the filthy flood water when she is out working. Chong kaosou (west) community, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

For World Water Day, WaterAid released its annual “State of the World’s Toilets” report, Wild Water, and featured women and girls whose lives have been dramatically affected by climate change. Srey worries so much about her children getting sick from walking through deep flood waters in rural Cambodia, that she has a neighbor watch them while she completes the 30-minute trek to get water from the one of only two wells in her community – a trek she takes up to six times a day.  The persistent drought in Julietta’s community in Mozambique means it is nearly impossible to farm crops and make a living to feed her four children.











Women and girls are disproportionately affected by lack of access to water and sanitation, and now is the time to ensure that we are working towards helping them recapture those 40 billion hours spent, risks of sexual assault while looking for a water or a loo, missed education just because they’re menstruating, and preventable infections caused by giving birth in places without WASH. We encourage everybody to join us and be #GirlStrong in support of these amazing women and girls.