In honor of International Women’s Day 2017, we asked leaders from Seed and Massachusetts General Hospital to reflect on what it means to #BeBoldForChange in our shared mission to strengthen health systems.
Erin Barr – Director of Operations at Seed Global Health
Half of the world’s population is female. Our active representation on all levels of healthcare delivery–as mothers, caretakers, healthcare workers, teachers, administrators, analysts, researchers–creates health systems that are sensitive and responsive to the rights and needs of women.
In her 1995 address to the UN, then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton remarked that, “[I]f women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish… And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish.”
Taking her idea further, if our health systems focus on addressing the health of women, then our families, communities and nations will flourish. Women know best the needs and challenges of women, and we can bring that perspective to address the challenges that women and families face in our health systems.
Pat Daoust – Director of Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital
The most important role for women in global health is as advocates! I truly feel that women need to use their voices to promote/demand their right to quality healthcare – across the global. Now more than ever, as our right to health is being challenged here in the United States with cuts to Planned Parenthood and internationally by re-enacting the Global Gag Rule (Mexico City Policy). The role of “gender” is considered an underlying determinate that impacts health. Gender norms…..inferior social status, poverty, unequal access to education…is too often supported by polices and legislation and definitely contributes to health disparities. As EM Murphy said in an article published in AM Psychology (2003) …being born female is dangerous to your health. But as advocates we (women) can educate, outreach and organize and create a voice for change.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Women are core to strengthening health systems. They are key contributors to the basic provision of health care around the world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently stated that women make up 80% of those who provide all levels of healthcare here in the US. In the developing world, we know that nurses provide between 80-90% of all primary care and 84% of those nurses are women. These numbers speak for themselves relative to the importance women play within health care systems.
Recognizing that women are the backbone of the health system must translate into action. Across the globe women are rarely represented in executive or management-level positions and this must change. Setting the agenda for global health must include women. WHO (2016) emphasizes that addressing women’s health and women’s role as care providers is necessary for any effective approach to strengthening health systems for everyone. Improve women’s health-improve health for the world.
Eileen Stuart-Shor – Chief Nursing Officer at Seed Global Health
I think the most important role for women is advocating for underserved populations. I think that women have a unique understanding being oftentimes marginalized. That makes their voice and their advocacy in that, that much more powerful.
Women are important to strengthening health systems for a variety of reasons. One of the most important is that women are the center of family health. And if you look in any country, who is the steward of the family’s healthy, is the woman. In relation to cooking, getting children immunizations, getting them to child care. So I think we need to partner with women across all countries, as their role as the family steward of health care. So you look at nursing its predominately women. Nursing provides the largest percentage of the workforce. Community health workers, largely women. Nursing assistants, largely women. So because women make up that largest percentage, they are critically important to health systems strengthening.