Women Must take Expanded Roles in Health Sector Governance: Highlights from SID-W event on November 4

James A. Rice, Ph.D., Project Director, LMG

Excerpted from this post originally appearing on the LMG Blog.

In our recent Roundtable with the Society for International Development Washington Chapter, a panel of respected experts on smarter governance concluded that it is essential to have more women involved in all types of governing bodies for health, whether at provincial, national, or international levels, and in both the public sector and civil society organizations.

We need bolder actions to better engage and support more women as they take their rightful roles on governing bodies of health services organizations. Some of those actions must be aimed toward removing barriers to their effective engagement, such as:

Panelist Laili Irani of Population Reference Bureau, Chantal Uwimana of Transparency International, and Jodi Charles of USAID at the Roundtable: Sustainable Governance: From Rhetoric to Action: Engaging Women as a Means for Stronger Health Systems and Greater Health Outcomes. Photo: MSH

  1. Changing attitudes among men, women, girls, and boys so women understand their rights to serve in governance and leadership roles, and that they have the capability to serve wisely.
  2. Removing organizational bias about equal pay for equal work, and creating workplaces free of harassment and discrimination.
  3. Removing distractions and disruptions to women’s service in governing bodies by supporting men to share in household chores, child rearing, and transportation.
  4. Removing biases about the effectiveness of women decision makers in governance by investing in capacity development training.
  5. Reinforcing the message that girls can have careers of impact in health services leadership and governance by investing in expanded early education in schools for girls and boys.

With more women in governance roles, there is greater potential that good governance will more effectively be The Big Enabler of those who deliver, manage, and lead health services organizations. That is, smarter governing body decisions are more likely focused on interventions that can work and yield sustainable gains in protecting, promoting, and restoring health for communities and for vulnerable populations with women not only at the table, but with their voices heard, amplified, and respected at these tables.

We need more conversations and action to crystallize our assertions about the unique value women bring into the governance processes of health systems in low resourced countries. This value has evolved from wisdom forged from their central roles as the principal decision makers, recipients, and providers of health services. Women know the value of investing wisely for stronger health systems access and results, and the risks of system failures in tangible human and financial terms. They also have leadership styles that can support smarter governing decision making processes.

What do you think? How can we encourage expanded capacity development for youth leaders who see the value of active women and girls engagement in governance work for health in low resourced countries? Let us know on Twitter @LMGforHealth.