How Gender Equity & Good Governance Save Moms and Kids

Jason Wright

Health Programs Group Senior Director, Project Implementation (and former LMG Project Director)

On June 1, 2016, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, I was honored in my roles as HPG Senior Director, Project Implementation and former USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project Director to speak on a panel at an event entitled Building Political Will for Gender Equity to Achieve Maternal, Newborn, and Child Survival Goals.

Nora O'Connell, from Save the Children, opens the panel discussion on building political will for maternal, newborn, and child health. (Photo: Michele Alexander/MSH)
Nora O'Connell, from Save the Children, opens the panel discussion on building political will for maternal, newborn, and child health. (Photo: Michele Alexander/MSH)

The event was the third and last in a series hosted by Jhpiego, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), Save the Children, and the Save the Children Action Network highlighting key successes and challenges in advancing maternal and child survival around the world

The event objectives were to:

  • Discuss how gender inequality–discrimination, gender-based violence (GBV), child marriage, denial of opportunities in public and political life, and more–contributes to maternal, newborn, and child deaths
  • Highlight how international, national, and local political will and accountability are addressing gender equity
  • Note the importance of decentralized responsibility and leadership for national priorities in reaching every last girl with the services and resources she needs to survive and thrive

Save the Children Associate Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy Nora O’Connell moderated the event and made opening remarks.

Nora identified three crucial needs:

  1. Need to focus on results
  2. Need to build local capacity through developing health systems
  3. Need to recognize the power and limitation of technology and focus on human side of challenges

U.N. Foundation Vice President, Girls and Women Strategy Daniela Ligiero discussed the development of the Sustainable Development Goals and noted that gender is in both the gender equality goal (Goal 5) and the health goal (Goal 3).

Daniela highlighted three I’s:

  1. Identification
  2. Integration
  3. Innovation

Jhpiego Director, Gender Myra Betron discussed how gender discrimination and stigma and GBV negatively impact maternal, newborn, and child care.

Myra promoted the 2016 Jhpiego Gender Analysis Toolkit for Health Systems.

Following these three incredible women, I discussed governance and gender.

The LMG Project has identified five practices of effective governance:

  1. Cultivating accountability
  2. Engaging stakeholders
  3. Setting shared strategic direction
  4. Stewarding resources
  5. Continuously enhancing governance

Two critical enablers of engaging stakeholders are inclusion and participation and gender-responsiveness.

I highlighted five ways in which governance practices can facilitate gender-responsiveness:

  1. Instituting a gender policy
  2. Establishing a gender-sensitive implementation process which considers the different needs of men and women
  3. Collecting gender-disaggregated data
  4. Reinforcing a safe, harassment-free environment by upholding strict codes of conduct and zero tolerance for discrimination
  5. Establishing quotes and affirmative action coupled with empowerment measures

I discussed two examples of LMG Project gender work:

East African Women’s Mentoring Network

The LMG Project has supported dozens of mentors and mentees. Mentor-mentee pairs communicate through a website, Skype, WhatsApp, e-mail, and texting. I told the story of one mentor-mentee pair, Emerging Leaders Foundation Founder and Executive Director Caren Wakoli of Kenya and Trocaire Technical Officer Europe Maalim of Somalia. Their collaboration has led to scholarships for 20 young girls and advanced studies in Liverpool for Europe. Caren presented at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in January 2016 in Bali. She used the metaphor of a key to describe how mentoring relationships unlock doors for both mentors and mentees.

From left to right, panelists Dr. Daniela Ligiero, Nora O'Connell, Myra Betron, and Jason Wright next to an event poster. (Photo: Michele Alexander/MSH)
From left to right, panelists Dr. Daniela Ligiero, Nora O'Connell, Myra Betron, and Jason Wright next to an event poster. (Photo: Michele Alexander/MSH)

The LMG Project blog has spotlighted Caren and Europe and other mentors and mentees on a monthly basis. MSH will sustain EAWMN beyond the life of the LMG Project by transitioning responsibility to the International Planned Parenthood Federation African Regional Office.

Women’s Institute for Leadership and Disability (WILD)

The LMG Project has supported Mobility International USA (MIUSA) and its WILD Training Program through funding from the USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Center of Excellence for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance. MIUSA has trained women with disabilities from 80 countries since 1997, and the LMG Project has partnered with MIUSA since 2012. MIUSA Program Manager Suz Dunn also presented at the ICFP in January 2016 in Bali. Suz used the metaphor of a trampoline to describe how the LMG Project has helped empower women with disabilities and described the WILD training of trainers as a “transformational, powerful experience,” which increases pride, builds confidence, and improves public-speaking skills.

The LMG Project has helped MIUSA develop its first training facilitators’ guide and WILD training participants (known as “WILD women”) develop their action plans for implementation after returning to their home countries. I recommended the WILD music video “Loud, Proud, and Passionate!

In response to a question from Nora, I discussed the LMG Project's governance work in Afghanistan. MSH has partnered with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) for about four decades. MSH has worked in nine program areas under LMG-Afghanistan including community-based health care (CBHC).

I had the opportunity to meet the MOPH CBHC National Coordinator in Kabul in Summer 2015. He described Afghanistan as the “model of community-based healthcare in the world” with more than 28,000 Community Health Workers (CHWs) in country and the CHWs as the “foundation for the public health system of Afghanistan” and the “unknown soldiers of the [MOPH].” He estimated that $20 are saved for every $1 spent in the community and stated that although “most programs are not sustainable… this is a very sustainable program.”

The USAID/Afghanistan Social Sector Development Director attributed the “tremendous gains” in the health sector to three factors:

  1. Effective administrative structures
  2. Basic package of health services
  3. Entry of women into workforce

Based on the work in Afghanistan, the LMG Project has developed five training facilitation handbooks for governance education at the five levels of the government:

  1. Ministry of Health
  2. Provincial health departments and health systems
  3. District health offices and district health systems
  4. Hospitals
  5. Health centers

We are proud that the LMG Project and other MSH projects have been able to contribute to increasing gender equity and good governance and saving moms and kids around the world.