Heroines of Health: Celebrating

Women in Global Health

2019 Heroines of Health Award Reception & Gala

Women make up 70 percent of the global health workforce and contribute nearly $3 trillion to the health and social sector. They are the leaders and drivers of health in their communities, and without them, universal health coverage (UHC) will not be possible. Far too often their life-saving contributions go unrecognized and their inspiring stories stay untold. We at Women in Global Health want to change that. For the third year in a row, alongside the 72nd World Health Assembly, Women in Global Health is thrilled to award seven remarkable women the 2019 Heroines of Health honor for their leadership in global health.


Recognition and profile-raising of female leaders in global health is a key priority of Women in Global Health and our partners. We know leading women like our Heroines of Health have a tremendous impact on shaping the future of global health and deserve to be heard. By recognizing these remarkable women and their achievements, we believe we can drive necessary change for gender equity matters and positively influence local, regional, and global health policies related to UHC. Aligned with our community’s shared commitment to UHC, these extraordinary women are advancing health for all through dedicated efforts to strengthen community health and/or the community health workforce.


We thank Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic Foundation, Pathfinder International, and United Nations Foundation for their help to make this important recognition possible.


Meet the 2019 Heroines of Health

Read about the seven esteemed women here.


Please view our press release here. For media inquiries, contact communications@womeningh.org.

Beyond Applause: Heroines of Health 2021

Tuesday, October 5, 10:00-11:30 EST

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Seven women leaders recognised as Heroines of Health for their outstanding contributions to health and gender equity, and call for urgent action to address crippling health worker shortages .

The seven incredible Heroines of Health, Ramatu Jalloh, Jane Kubai, Neha Mankani, Dr. Myrna Doumit, Dr. Vandana Gopikumar and Greisy Trejo were accompanied at the awards by H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr. Suraya Dalil, Prof. Flavia Senkubuge and Laura Nel with video remarks from Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Anita Bhatia. Spoken word artist Mumbi Macharia performed a very special poem 'Beyond Applause' for the Heroines. 

This virtual Gala provided a critical platform to hear from women health workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 who have risked their lives under the most extreme circumstances to deliver health services. Stories were shared of courage, leadership and overcoming unimaginable challenges. Discussions dealt with how to break down the barriers women in health face, and called for a new social contract for women health workers. 


As the majority of the global health workforce, women have made an extraordinary contribution on the frontlines of this pandemic. But despite their expertise women continue to be clustered into lower status jobs, lower paid and unpaid, frequently in unsafe working conditions subject to violence and sexual harassment and left out of decision-making roles. 


The Heroines of Health Awards began in 2017, recognized by global leaders, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark and Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to shine a much needed spotlight on the glaringly problematic fact that women deliver health, but do not lead it.


Key take aways from the event:

  • We have a key opportunity politically to accelerate progress on gender equity but we must stand in solidarity, with a united voice to make change happen

  • We have to walk the talk when it comes to listening to what women are calling for on the frontlines of healthcare 

  • Local decision making and action to enable this is a prerequisite to enabling stronger leadership pipelines for women 

  • We must have the confidence and courage to stand up for what we believe in, and for what is just and right

  • Together are a powerful force for change. Let's invest in this network and strengthen our collective voice

  • There are Heroines in all of our lives, let's celebrate each other and strengthen our call for a gender equal world 

The Issue

Women health and care workers have been characterized as heroines for remaining on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic but the pandemic has shone a harsh light on the gender inequities in the health and care workforce that disadvantage women workers and at the same time, undermine health systems and global health security. At a glance: 


  • Women comprise 70% of health workers but only 25% of senior roles (WHO)

  • $1.5 Trillion of women's healthcare work is unpaid. The equivalent of the GDP of Australia (UN Women)

  • 18 million more health workers are needed in low- and middle-income countries (WHO)

  • By 2030, there will be a global shortage of 40 million health workers (WHO)

  • Many women healthcare workers are considering leaving their jobs due to harassment, low pay and low status. Recent studies found 43% of nurses in US and  33% of nurses in UK are considering leaving the profession


It is time to build a new social contract for women health workers. 


The world cannot afford to lose one trained health worker.  The COVID-19 pandemic and related health crises are far from over. A new social contract is needed now to retain women in the health workforce and attract more women to fill the millions of vacant jobs in the sector. 


Women want the means - decent work, safety, dignity, fair pay and equal leadership - to do their jobs better and deliver stronger health outcomes for everyone. That new social contract will form the solid foundation for vaccinating the world, saving lives now and building back better and achieving global health security.

Read full profiles of all 7 Heroines of Health here with illustrations of the Heroines by Nikita Abuya and designed by Marie Prevot and don't miss out on the event recording.

2018 Heroines of Health Award Reception & Gala

Women in Global Health and GE Healthcare joined forces to celebrate and honor nine women for their commitment and achievements in global health at the 2nd annual 'Heroines of Health Award Reception and Gala' on May 20 in Geneva, Switzerland, ahead of the 71st World Health Assembly. 'Heroines of Health' seeks to highlight women’s significant contribution to healthcare. Women continue to make up a comparatively small percentage of global health leadership, despite holding the majority of jobs in global healthcare. Seventy percent of workers in the health and social work
sectors are women, while women only comprise 31 percent of health ministers and 25 percent of deans of top public health and medical schools.

We would like to thank our co-sponsoring organizations: GE, IntraHealth International, Research in Gender and Ethics (RinGs), Global Health Council, Women Deliver, Frontline Healthcare Workers Coalition, The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute Geneva, and the United Nations Foundation.

Meet the 2017 Heroines of Health

Meet the 2018 Heroines of Health

Meet the 2018 Heroines of Health

2017 Heroines of Health Award Reception & Gala

It was an incredible privilege for the Women in Global Health and GE Healthcare teams - along with our co-sponsors, United Nations Foundation, Global Health Council, Global Health Centre-Graduate Institute, Women Deliver, Government Offices of Sweden, IntraHealth International, Frontline Health Workers Coalition and Research in Ethics Gender Studies (RinGS) - to celebrate amazing women among diverse, committed partners from around the world, from across sectors, spanning all areas of global health advocacy. These women are working tirelessly to improve global health with dedication and passion to champion better healthcare for all. Our teams are committed to help recognize, develop and grow women’s leadership. This is just the start.

Read about the 13 esteemed Heroines of Health here.

Watch the trailer for GE Healthcare’s new documentary in June that follows three of our 2017 Heroines of Health – Dr. Sharmila Anand, Mercy Owuor and Mrs. Rohani – from sunrise to sunset to answer one question: how have these individuals made an impact on the disparity that exists in global health in a way much of the world is still striving to do? 

Meet the 2017 Heroines of Health

At the 70th World Health Assembly, these women leaders in health were recognized for their phenomenal efforts in bettering the health of their communities, and inspiring women around the world.

Watch the documentary 'Heroines of Health' by Lisa Russell

This short film follows 3 of the Heroines of Health through their daily work. Meet Mercy, Dr. Sharmila and Mrs. Rohani and hear their stories.

For media, contact communications@womeningh.org