Put women on health decisions frontline, African leaders urged

African leaders have been asked to intervene and address gender disparity in the healthcare sector on the continent.

In a plenary session at the ongoing second International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA 2022) in Kigali, Rwanda, a group of health workers reiterated the need for women to be at the centre of the healthcare system in Africa.

Speaking at the event, Dr Magda Robalo, the president of the Institute of Global Health and Development, said despite women healthcare workers being on the frontline, they have been relegated to the background when it comes to making health decisions. She blamed the society for creating barriers for women in the health sector on the continent.

While addressing the conference virtually, Ms Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS, said poverty, patriarchy and violence against women have undermined their health and minimised their access to healthcare.

Women deaths

According to the World Health Organisation, women in Africa account for more than half of deaths of women worldwide due to communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions.


This, she said, is partly because despite women in the formal healthcare sector accounting for 85 percent, they are concentrated at the lower level.

“In Africa, for instance, 65 percent of healthcare workforce are women, but less than 30 percent are doctors. This means they lag behind in policy making, planning and budgeting for healthcare; women are underrepresented.”

Dr Ida, the executive director of Aidspan, said misinformation played a role in the way women received vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this shows the need for women involvement in the health sector.

Ms Faith Nfii, the programme coordinator for public health workforce development at Africa CDC, said women continue to provide healthcare but still are not able to make decisions at the highest levels within the sector.

“This was evident during the pandemic when women who were mainly the frontline healthcare workers, yet when it came national Covid-19 task forces, they didn’t participate in decision making.”

No formal networks

Dr Stella Bosire, the executive director of Africa Centre for Health Systems and Gender, said one of the contributors to this problem is that there are no formal networks for women in the health sector.

“We do not track, and public metrics do not measure gender inclusion,” she said.

According to Dr Muchekeza, for Africa to achieve universal health coverage, there is need to look at women as tools contributing to global health solutions.

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Source:  The East African

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