I’ll let you in on a secret. Sometimes, my family and friends will place bets on how quickly people forget the last injustice caught on camera. It’s always so tragic and graphic that everyone feels guilty looking away. But we eventually do, moving on to the next breaking news story. It’s the same cycle time and again, leading to a common cynicism about our readiness to change: outrage, followed by silence. Fortunately, silence and inaction are not the case at Global Health Council. We made a promise that we won’t stop until equity and inclusion are not just principles we tout, but standard operating procedure for how we work in global health.
Knowing there are many other stories and experiences that could help inspire collective action, I’ve been reaching out to other Black leaders in our network to get their perspectives on taking this work forward. The resulting conversations were too good not to share. That’s why GHC recently launched a new digital miniseries, #BlackVoices in Global Health.
One of these conversations featured several of my fellow Black, female peers in global health. I asked them to talk about the path that led them to their current roles. We also discussed how best to advance diversity and inclusion in our sector. In recent years, we’ve seen an increased—and much needed—focus on women leaders in global health. But we have not seen the same level of attention paid to people of color. I’ll use GHC as an example: Of the 87 organizations in our member network, only 12 are led by people of color and just five appear to have Black leaders. A greater diversity of people must have a seat at the global health table, if we really want to practice what we preach. The good news is that renewed commitments and conversations regarding diversity in global health leadership are already happening among GHC member CEOs, which will continue at our summit in November.
In another #BlackVoices conversation, I spoke with counterparts living and working outside the U.S. about power and racism in global health. Specifically, we discussed how to democratize the sector across donors and programs at international and country levels. (It’s not lost on me that this is something we need to look closely at in the U.S., as well.) Representation matters when discussions of resources and strategy are taking place. The communities most affected — largely Black and Brown people — are not calling the shots and that’s a real problem, especially when we expect them to take up or otherwise sustain initiatives developed and evaluated with little of their input. While some are changing their practices, all funders and implementers, including individual consultants and corporations, need to examine why, who, and how they engage on the ground from Day 1. In addition, they need to echo advice offered in an opening panel at GHC’s symposium last year and identify what their exit plan looks like from the beginning. We’ll be revisiting this call to action at our upcoming summit, looking specifically at U.S. policies that perpetuate top-down approaches to the detriment of long-term progress and introducing new proposals for alternative strategies in a post-pandemic world.
There are more #BlackVoices where these came from, including our amazing cohort of summit advisors who have helped map out an enriching program this fall. I look forward to continuing the dialogue during our time together in November. And, if you haven’t yet signed up for our “Pandemics, Politics, and Privilege” event, I hope you will do so soon!
I am always eager to hear what you think about how GHC is doing, especially now. Please also feel free to share your ideas for how we build on the conversations we’ve started. We have talked (and talked and talked) about the many challenges we have in global health. But we also want our dialogue to be about finding solutions. In my experience, the best place to get those is right from the source, shared by people who live and breathe the reality of inequity every day. I’m ready to listen.