Women’s Leadership in Global Health at the Youth Pre-World Health Assembly


Students and young professionals from 30+ countries have been gathering for the Youth Pre-World Health Assembly (Pre-WHA), hosted by the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and the Graduate Institute, to prepare themselves for the World Health Assembly since 2013. The Pre-WHA is an opportunity for youth working in global health to learn new skills, gain insights from top leaders of global health and make policy positions for the WHA. Founded by Women in Global Health's Executive Director, Dr Roopa Dhatt in 2013, when she served as the IFMSA President, she had a unique opportunity to present as a keynote speaker on Women’s Leadership in Global Health, at the 6th Pre-WHA for Youth (#yWHA #preWHA).

Roopa focused on the leadership values and practices that are key in the current global health context. The latest gender data in global health leadership collected by Women in Global Health, the Global Health 50/50 report, McKinsey Report, World Economic Forum data and several other resources provided a landscape overview of the current gender representation in global health leadership. The session was dynamic and created space for young people to voice their reflections on gender equality from their own perspective.

Women in Global Health's key reflections from this session are:

  • Young people in student health professional organizations perceive that there is less gender equality in their organizations; however, when confronted with the question of gender parity the data alludes to another reality:

  • IFMSA averages approximately 1 out of 5 women presidents, with it taking on average approximately 5 years for a woman to be elected as the international president in the last two decades.

  • In IFMSA only 14% of all national member organizations (NMOs) have women as the president (not verified data, but presented by an IFMSA member at the pre WHA).

  • Most attendees were unaware of the gender gap in society, including how wide it is in the health sector. Most were shocked that the gender gap per WEF’s 2018 is estimated to take 217 years to correct and reach full gender equality.

  • Attendees also sought out tools to uncover gender bias and apply an intersectionality lens to their organization, their work and more broadly to the health community.

  • Of primary concern to the attendees was addressing gender norms and having more opportunities for women, especially mentorship in global health.

IFMSA expressed commitment to gender equality, including Dr. Amine Lotfi, Liaison Officer to the World Health Organization making three #womeinGH commimtents to gender equality.

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