WGH's summary of SwitchPoint 2018, produced by IntraHealth International

SwitchPoint is an energizing, unconference, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds in global health and development, alongside artists, to inspire new ideas and approaches to the challenges we face. Women in Global Health's Executive Director, Roopa Dhatt, shared WGH’s inception story and the challenges faced for the first time while also presenting in three sessions: 'Frontline Health', 'Powerful Women', and 'Sex, Data, and Women’s Rights'.

The 'Frontline Health' session featured English Sall, Madeleine Ballard, Nick Gordon, and Roopa Dhatt who discussed how we support community health workers. Through this session, the presenters attempted explore the topic by asking 'what is the “secret sauce” for optimizing community health systems?' Frontline health workers face daily decisions that can mean life and death for others, sometimes for themselves, while health providing services where they are most needed, especially in remote and rural areas. They are the first and often only link to essential health services for millions in developing countries. How can we amplify the voices of those on the ground and in the midst of complicated community health systems?

The 'Powerful Women' session Jess Mack, Pharvi Bhat, and Roopa Dhatt: 3 women who discussed what the future holds, or should hold, and how we can get there.

And finally in the 'Sex, Data, and Women’s Rights' session, presenters Vithika Yadav, Roopa Dhatt, and Nina Rabinovitch Blecker talked about how they are working to make a practical difference in the lives of women and girls worldwide, using gender data, social media, education, and creativity to improve policies, strategies, and decision-making in support of gender equality. From taboo topics to misogyny, sexism, challenging the status quo, data equality and supporting women’s leadership.

Here are our take-away messages from the sessions we presented at and the conference in general:

Lesson #1: Early success and exposure creates a misperception of organizational capacity. WGH’s early victories, wild-fire growth, all things we were delighted with, led to a misperception that we are highly resourced and formalized. With that came the snowballing effect of request after request with little resources attached. The same growth that fuelled us became our greatest barrier. Now we have shifted priorities and are focusing on infrastructure and controlled growth.

Lesson #2:

The individuals by your side at the start of a journey will likely change along the way. Don’t take it personally. Priorities Change. Challenges Arise. Life steps in. It’s okay. Departure of one ally makes room for others to join you and renewed energy. The individuals by your side at Departure of one ally makes room for others to join you and renewed energy. The individuals by your side at the start of a journey will likely change along the way.

Lesson #3:

share your struggles, the barriers and challenges freely, even with those with competing priorities. Since we at WGH have started sharing our struggles, people are treating us differently, more kindly and patiently. It is also refreshing to have honest conversations. Remember it is okay to ask for help along the way to find collective solutions. And Don’t forget to help others as well.

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