Dr Sania Nishtar, Federal Minister and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, launched on Tuesday 20th August 2019 the first Women in Global Health (WGH) Chapter in South Asia in an inauguration ceremony at the federal capital. Closing comments at the launch were delivered by the State Minister for Health, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, Dr Zafar Mirza.
During the launch she stated that women are 70 percent of global health workforce but they hold only 25 percent of senior and leadership roles. The percentage is even less in Pakistan and there is a recognized need for introducing gender sensitive workplace policies for attracting and retaining female health workforce in the labor market. This is critical for achieving the government’s commitment of universal health coverage. Dr Nishtar also revealed that out of the 103 million women in Pakistan, nearly 60 million are in an economically productive age. However, the percentage of women in the labor workforce is only 22.54%. “We are introducing a number of initiatives under the “Ehsaas” Program that are aimed at promoting gender mainstreaming and empowering women,” She stated. She also highlighted the cumulative momentum of WGH movement of the global level, NursingNow, Global Health 50-50 and the Women in Health Leadership Conferences.
WGH was established in 2015 as a global movement with the mission to achieve gender equality in global health leadership. The global movement aims to achieve 50-50 in global health at top leadership positions, in governing boards and representation in events, panels and roundtables and create a robust WGH network, establishing national chapters at country level. Within three years of its origin, WGH received membership from over 70 countries and has established national chapters in Germany, US, Sweden, Norway and Somalia.
While talking to the audience, Dr Shabnum Sarfraz, Member Social Sector at the Planning Commission said that although women outnumber men in the country’s medical, dental and allied health schools, more than half never end up practicing. Concerns over feminization of health workforce is also a frequent topic of discussion but the need for gender inclusive workplace policies to retain the female health workplace is rarely raised as a possible solution.“It is vital that the contribution of the women in the health workforce are recognized and they are given the due respect” said a senior physician. Dr Zeba Sathar Country Director Population Council stated that “it is important to involve them in policy and decision-making process”. She also emphasized on excellence in work and no compromise on quality. During the panel session, Dr Nausheen Hamid, Member National Assembly spoke of the challenges in creating and promulgating gender-responsive legislations.
The WGH Pakistan Chapter is expected to provide a platform for discussion, collective knowledge creation, and contemplation nurturing a collaborative space for mentorship programs and leadership trainings; facilitating research on gender specific issues in health; landscaping and policy analysis; and advocacy for Gender Transformative Leadership in global health.
There were two panel sessions, two lightning rounds, and four speaker sessions, showcasing 34 speakers from across the country and beyond.
Talking on the occasion Dr Roomi Aziz, director at P2impact Associates which is actively supporting the WGH Pakistan Chapter activities stated that the Chapter would be organizing thought leadership events, curating conversations, policy and strategy dialogues and will also undertake cross cutting research for generating data on gender issues of female health workforce to guide program interventions and policy reforms.
The launch event was attended by parliamentary secretaries, senior bureaucrats and representatives of bilateral and multilateral agencies. Panel discussions were participated by diverse group of seasoned female health professionals, from academicians to practitioners, from researchers to policy makers, from students to senior leaders with varied global health and interdisciplinary backgrounds and also women’s right activists.
Learn more about Women in Global Health, the global movement here.
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