Emi: Today was the third and final day of the conference, and during the “Strengthening Health Systems For Education and Training” workshop, I met Ms. Maria Kipele. She is a neurosurgeon from Tanzania who is currently completing her fellowship at the University Würzburg, here in Germany. She explained how from a young age, her parents encouraged her to be a powerful and independent woman and gave her a choice to pursue any career that she pleased. In her presentation she stated that there are only 5 neurosurgeons in the country of Tanzania; which is a ratio of 1 neurosurgeon to 10 million people. She explained how the doctors are absorbed; people train to be doctors but the limited amount of internships and the lack of hospitals cause these people to stop pursuing their medical careers. She also said that she is planning to go back to Tanzania after her training here in Germany to be the first female neurosurgeon. After the workshop was finished, I personally talked to her about how influential she will be; especially to young girls in Tanzania. She was very enthusiastic about going back to Tanzania to help the people of her country and also be a role model for the young generation. Her story is just beginning and I hope that I will be able to follow her journey, where she will accomplish amazing and inspiring actions.
Maansi: I just attended an amazing conference session about cardiovascular diseases. It was held by a very accomplished panel that held an engaging and lively discussion that welcomed audience participation. I learned lots about a disease called hypertension, which is known as the silent killer. We learned about the impact of the disease on a global level and what we as individuals can do to help raise awareness. The message I would like to relay is to know your numbers. Make sure that you yourself know your blood pressure and you should remind friends and family to take care of themselves. This conference has been an incredible experience and I am very excited to attend more conferences!
Mr. Kahrl: After lunch, several members of the Brookline High School group went to an impromptu panel of four women who founded a group, “Women in Global Health”. They spoke about working to have more role models for women in global health and showed us their new website.
This led into a panel discussion, “Gender Responsive Governance: A Key Pillar for Women’s Health and Environment”. There were just over fifty people in the room for this important meeting. And there were only three men, all from Brookline High School. Towards the end of the meeting, one of the audience members pointed this out. One of the panel members said that women needed to do a better job at showing men that gender equality in healthcare will help men getting better healthcare because they will not be subject to gender stereotypes. Then another member of the panel turned to the three men at the conference, Liam, Ethan, and myself, if we had any comment.
I had been steaming since the start of the conference session. We were at a session specifically dedicated to Gender and Governance and, outside of two students and myself from Brookline High School, not one other male participant or leader from the conference was in attendance.
And so, I decided to comment. I said that I thought it was not simply unfortunate, but pathetic that so few males were at the session, and that I was tired of the talk of humbly trying to convince men to be involved in these sessions because it would help them too. Women are dying. They are dying because they do not have access to reproductive healthcare. And when women die, children die. This is not a matter of men’s health. Men need to be interested in this because women matter.
Emily/Becca: Empowerment of women in the healthcare field is essential. The workshop: Gender Responsive Governance evidenced this. The main idea of the workshop was beautifully summed up by Mr Kahrl who said that men shouldn’t care about women and their rights because of how it can benefit them, but rather because women are human beings.
Unlike some other sessions, this one was geared more towards involving the participants and creating a dialogue that was inclusive and safe. After brief introductions, we split into 6 groups, each having around 11 people. The splitting off into groups was based on what topic you were interested in (ex: How Can Women’s Leadership Capacity be Developed?; How Do We Work Gender Equally for Gender Equality, etc). Personally we attended, “How Can Women’s Leadership Capacity be Developed?” led by Lourdes de la Peza of Management Sciences for Health.
We first directed our discussion towards what challenges women face becoming leaders, and the large gap in the number of women leaders and male leaders in healthcare. Some of the challenges that came up were:
- Lack of strong mentorship for women from both male and female leaders
- The hypothetical choice between family and work, and a lack of support structures in place for those who want to do both.
- The vernacular we use when describing assertive women, and how it usually comes along with a negative connotation and reputation.
During this portion of the conversation women shared powerful stories of discrimination they had faced in the workforce, and challenges they had overcome. It was both inspiring, while also being upsetting that it is the 21st century and we are still facing the same issues of disrespect. The sharing of stories was very moving, and it was really cool to be surrounded by such a strong group of women. The sharing of challenges led to a discussion of strategies women could use to become empowered in the workplace.
Some of the strategies that we came up with were:
- Acknowledging that a women can be both a good mother, and a strong worker, and having the support structures to make this function.
- Knowing that anyone can be a leader, it doesn’t have to come from the top, there can be leaders at all levels.
- Having self confidence, and believing that you can be whatever you want if you put your mind to it, and that you can reach your goals
- Reclaiming the language that surrounds assertive women. (Knowing that a woman being “bossy” isn’t a negative thing.)
We presented these challenges to the whole panel, and listened to others share on the topics they had discussed.The overall message that was collected from our discussion was that if we provide equity, and give women a chance, there’s no limit to what women can do.
Becca, Emily, Isabel, Maansi, and Lucia (not pictured) presenting discussion points at workshop on Gender Responsive Governance.
Mrs. Downey: Finishing an amazing session on gender responsive governance where 4 of the 5 group presenters were our BHS students! In a room full of professionals in global health from around the world our students were able to fully engage and participate with great ideas. Their leadership was recognized by their groups because they were chosen to speak to the full room. I can tell you that I was humbled by their poise and passion. They were an amazing example for Brookline High. Be sure to ask them about it when they get home!