Walking the Talk: Women in Global Health (WGH) Launches Washington, D.C. Chapter

The snowstorm did not deter us. Originally scheduled for March 21st, 75 leaders gathered a day later to launch the Women in Global Health chapter in Washington, D.C.

Established in 2015, Women in Global Health (WGH) is a global movement dedicated to achieving gender equality in global health leadership. WGH is a virtually based and currently powered by volunteers that serve members in over 70 countries.

On the heels of WGH’s first chapter launch, which was established in Germany in 2018, the 2nd official chapter in Washington, D.C. seeks to leverage the nexus of politics, diplomacy, and development. The D.C. Chapter will build on existing platforms and networks to further strengthen gender equality in global health. Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director of WGH emphasized the unique role and responsibility DC has in advancing gender equality and women’s leadership in global health, reminding attendees that WGH found it first collaboration and partnership in DC with Christine Sow, Former ED of Global Health Council in 2015.

Sponsored by the United Nations Foundation and Pathfinder International, CEO’s Kathy Calvin and Lois Quam provided the opening and closing remarks, ensuring women at the highest levels of global health bookended the program with their unwavering support.

The tone was set by Senait Fisseha, Clinical Professor of OBGYN, University of Michigan, Director of International Programs, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, and Chief Advisor to WHO DG, who made a passionate case for why the time is now to “walk the talk” on gender equality.

The launch centered on a panel discussion, “Walk the Talk on Gender Equality”. As the Global Health Council summarized, “distinguished speakers stressed the need for attribution, influencing the youth, and ensuring that global health policies that affect women are made with women at the table”. Global health leader Janet Fleischman moderated this discussion with Sir George Alleyne, The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); Nandini Oomman, The Women’s Storytelling Salon; and Gwen Young, Wilson Center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, Women in Public Service Project.

A highlight of this event was the call for commitments from Paurvi Bhatt of the Medtronic Foundation. Attendees spontaneously made commitments to advance women in global health leadership as well gender equality at all levels, and especially in support of the chapter’s five main objectives.

  1. Provide a platform to connect women in global health based in Washington D.C. and identify opportunities to advance women’s leadership.

  2. Bring visibility to women shaping global health programming, policy and advocacy in Washington D.C.

  3. Encourage new connections across issues and organizations working in global health.

  4. Advance gender transformative leadership in global health organizations in Washington D.C.

  5. Contribute with other WGH chapters to building the global WGH movement to achieve gender equality in global health leadership.

A few of the commitments made from attendees were:

“I commit to continue to hold myself and others in leadership accountable by counting women to ensure women are accounted for – From senior leadership to keynote speeches, from panels to publication and promotion." - Dr. Senait Fisseha

“The UN Foundation is committed to gender equality and closing the gender gap with partners across global development” - Kathy Calvin

“To build the “courage pipeline,” honor male mentors, ask for a “Plus 1” for up and coming women in global health when invited to ‘the table’ and speak up when at conferences!” - Paurvi Bhatt

“Pathfinder is committed to host a future event, and I will contact other CEOs in global health to join this movement. I will also make a personal contribution” - Lois Quam

We thank everyone for their enthusiasm and are excited to advance these goals through future activities in D.C.

Follow along and engage using #womeningh and #WGHinDC on social media.

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