Governance in the Spotlight: Gender Responsiveness in Governance

Belkis Giorgis

Senior Technical Advisor for Gender and Capacity Building

Mahesh Shukla

Senior Technical Advisor for Public Sector Governance

This blog post is part of a series leading up to the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland from May 19 – 24, 2014. In conjunction with the WHA, the Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project will host a side session with global health leaders titled, “Governance for Health: Priorities for Post-2015 and Beyond.” This series will offer insight on how good governance in the health system can result in stronger health impact as we move beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

Dr Apolline Uwayitu, Country Director, MSH Rwanda Photo: Todd Shapera

Dr Apolline Uwayitu, Country Director, MSH Rwanda Photo: Todd Shapera

Governing bodies of health systems and health institutions around the world are dominated by men. The lack of female leaders within these governance structures creates an unbalanced approach to how best to create meaningful health outcomes and why institutions are not being gender-responsive.  Gender-responsive governance in practice, means ensuring that governance decision-makers respond to the different needs of their internal and external clients, based on gender.

Ethiopia is one country that has recognized the importance of being gender-responsive and has created a gender directorate. With LMG, the gender directorate of Ethiopia is designing, monitoring, and evaluating efforts to ensure that gender in governance promotes equity in policy and program implementation throughout the country.

However, gender responsiveness is need at all levels, not just at the national government level. Recognizing this gap in 2013, the LMG Project developed a straightforward tool for health leaders to assess their actions and decisions based on a spectrum of gender responsive questions. The Gender in Governance Tool, is used to assess gender responsiveness in health governance and has the potential to enhance health outcomes not only for women, but also for the entire global community.

In creating the Gender in Governance Tool, LMG used a pool of leaders from LeaderNet, an online learning community of health leaders and managers supported by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

LMG received a total of 221 responses, gathered from LeaderNet, with the following results:

  • Two out of every three respondents (146 out of 221) completed the entire survey, and we received feedback from many respondents on how to improve the tool.
  • There was strong gender diversity among the respondents - women represented more than 50% of the respondents.
  • Approximately 85% respondents said they lead, 85% said they manage, and 47% said they perform a governing role in their respective organizations, making the tool relevant for them.

Based on the feedback from the LeaderNet test, the tool was completed and is currently ready to be rolled out in LMG’s new Govern4Health App which aims to put governance tools into the hands of health leaders around the world. With this tool we hope to establish a gender policy in every organization, ensure a safe and harassment-free environment, and work to increase the proportion of women in all roles in their organization. Women play important roles in a health system: as governance decision makers, health workers, and users of services and this tool has the potential to create meaningful change throughout the health system.