7 March 2022
I was raised by a mother who was a nurse and enjoyed her job. During school holidays, she took me to her workplace to “work with her”, of course I just sat in a room and she would check on me from time to time. I enjoyed her storytelling around her work; she would tell me how I should always find a way of making the world a better place by helping people in whatever work I do. That kept ringing a bell long after she died, she inspired me. When my younger sister started working at a hospital, she would tell me stories about some of the challenges and also exciting moments she experienced working in the health sector in a rural area of Zambia. My inspiration to also be a team player around health issues was triggered, taking me back to how my mother influenced my thinking. I knew I needed to take action. I started volunteering at a nearby clinic dealing with reproductive health issues amongst youths and years later, I am happy to be working for an organisation like THET focusing on Global Health.
In Zambia, the population is still facing challenges in accessing healthcare services, especially in rural areas. Women, for example, have to walk long distances to access services such as antenatal care and in some cases, they opt to give birth at home to avoid walking long distances to the nearest health facility. The situation is worse for a woman who has a disability and has no transportation. Some pregnant women struggle looking for money to buy gloves as required in some rural health facilities when a woman is in labour. This is a challenge for the health workforce too as they cannot do their duties when they don’t have essential tools as this poses a risk to their health, for example if they conduct a delivery minus gloves. Women are also faced with challenges in accessing services such as cancer screening as these services are not always available in rural areas, meaning some women are being left out.
For the first time in Zambia, THET introduced a course in Biomedical Engineering training which enrolled females. Following their training, the women were deployed to work in hospitals repairing equipment – something no woman would be seen doing previously. THET had to break this bias by engaging the female Biomedical Engineers, one of whom has since been taking up a great challenging role leading male Biomedical Engineers at one hospital in the Eastern Province of Zambia.
International Women’s Days provides an opportunity for women across the globe to share one voice and celebrate all the achievements that have been made to advance gender equality, while deciding on what policy direction to take to ensure every woman has access to quality health services. It’s a day when organisations championing global health can agree on areas that require change globally and for us all to continue working together towards a greater healthy goal.
For me, the 2022 International Women’s Day slogan, Break the Bias, means imagining a world where no one is left behind. A world filled with so much love for humanity, with everyone taking responsibility to speak out, to give, to influence, to serve communities and with oneness, breaking discrimination and accepting each other’s differences. It means reaching marginalized women from the deepest parts of every rural area all the way to to urban areas, providing support to those who for a long time have been seeking help.