The WomenLift Health Global Conference 2024, one of the largest summits dedicated to advancing women’s leadership in global health and promoting gender equality, kicked off in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Saturday.

This year’s summit, which brings together over 1000 delegates from 40 countries, will spotlight collective action on transformative leadership, allyship as a pathway to gender equality, and action in advancing women leadership in global health.

“We have a deep and wide global talent pool in the health field. But, by not advancing leadership opportunities equally, we are severely limiting our ability to tackle the world’s most critical health challenges.,” said Amie Batson, President, WomenLift Health.

“There is also evidence that shows women leaders are more likely to prioritize the health needs of children, women, and communities, from reproductive and maternity care, to clean water and sanitation, to stronger health systems, she added.

Batson explained that hosting the WomenLift Health Global conference in Tanzania was intentional as WomenLift Health underscores its commitment to addressing the pressing challenges faced by women in global health leadership, particularly in regions where the gender gap is most pronounced.

She said East Africa provides a unique opportunity to localize the conversations and initiatives, ensuring that they are tailored to the specific needs and realities of the local context.

This strategic approach not only fosters greater inclusivity but also amplifies the voices of women leaders and stakeholders from regions where the gender gap in health leadership is widest.

According to Dr Philip Isdor Mpango, Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania, President Samia Suluhu’s government is intentional on gender equality and equity, with significant appointment of its female leaders to the health and gender docket among other key sectors.

“These have resulted to better health outcomes for Tanzanian citizens,” he said.

“The conference is happening when the world is facing a myriad of challenges including climate change, pandemics, and evolving technology. Addressing all these global challenges requires inclusive leadership and diverse collaborations.

The theme of the 2024 WomenLift Health Global Conference — Reimagining Leadership: New approaches to new challenges — aligns with this.”

Ummy Ally Mwalimu, Tanzania’s health minister, noted the importance of mentorship, stating that her first appointment as deputy minister by former president Jakaya Kikwete fuelled her determination for quality leadership.

“I would not be where I am today if the former president did not believe in me,” she said, adding that President Samia Suluhu’s administration affirms the ongoing efforts in-country toward gender equality.

“The health sector is moving forward in all key health indicators under the leadership of our president. Women are capable of service delivery.”

Reports indicate that women, despite comprising 90% of frontline health workers and 70% of the overall global health workforce, remain overlooked for senior leadership roles, forming only 25% of senior roles.

A UN report states that at the current rate of progress, it will take 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and at least 40 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.

In 2019, only 25 percent and 20 percent of global health organizations had gender parity in their senior management and governance boards, respectively. In 2020, only 44 women were serving as Ministers of Health worldwide and Women Ministers of Children, Youth, and Families were much less in number.

“Making progress for women can be accelerated when women have that critical mass of seats at the decision-making tables. Where women are out of sight, they are out of mind,” Hellen Clark, former New Zealand Prime Minister, told delegates at the conference, which brings together speakers and thought leaders dedicated to propelling women’s leadership forward in the global health arena.

Happening just a year before the 30-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action in March 2025, the WomenLift Health Global Conference presents a critical platform for authentic conversations and progress checks on the implementation of the Platform for Action.

It will assess the strides made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, contributing significant barriers to women’s leadership including male privileging, leadership norms, marginalization of minority women, disempowering and non-supportive work environments, stigmatization of women in leadership roles, weak mentorship practices, and a lack of intentionality in supporting women’s public/global health leadership are still persistent.

Through authentic panel discussions and fireside chats, the summit intends to analyse progress made in different regions of the world, foster partnerships that drive meaningful advancements for women leaders in global health and address a comprehensive range of issues faced by women leaders, with a clear focus on generating tangible solutions that will catalyze positive change.

Kungu Al-Mahadi Adam is an experienced Ugandan multimedia Journalist with a background of fact checking and thorough research. He is very passionate about current African affairs particularly Horn of Africa. He...

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