Women's Expanded Role in Governance

Jim Rice

Former LMG Project Director

From left: Douglas Keene, San San Min, James Rice, David Collins, and Uzaib Saya. Photo by MSH. Dr. San San Min

From left: Douglas Keene, San San Min, James Rice, David Collins, and Uzaib Saya. Photo by MSH

During last week’s 5th International Conference on Public Health among Greater Mekong Sub-regional Countries in Yangon, Myanmar, Mekong regional health leaders asked…Why should health system leaders encourage more women to consider serving in governing boards, councils or committees?

Perhaps they should not, their reasoning went, because it may take time away from work and family, and usually for little or no compensation.

However, women’s engagement in governance has five important benefits:

  1. In any given community, district or province there can be many more governing body positions than leadership positions, so more opportunity to have an impact on the health system’s performance.
  2. Engagement in governance can influence and enable the work of those who lead and manage, thereby shaping the behavior of the health system, program or facility.
  3. For many health systems, formal education and training is usually more demanding for leadership jobs than for board service. So as we champion more women into needed training and educational opportunities, we should also support movement into governing decision-making roles for women of all ages.
  4. Board service, even if only of an advisory role, can provide visibility and voice for women to advocate for services that are both more convenient and of higher quality for women and children.
  5. Board service enables women to become more knowledgeable about how the health system functions, and therefore, more effective in calling for health services that are more efficient, effective and accountable to the public.

Women can play an expanded role in the future of health in South East Asia.