24 September 2019
In July 2000, I had the privilege of establishing the first nursing school in post-civil war Somaliland at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital. The class consisted of 30 young women who had just returned from refugee camps. Through my interactions with them over the course of the 3 year nursing diploma program, I was shocked to witness the impact of war on their development and to see how disconnected they were from the outside world.
We realised that in order to have competent nurses and midwives, we needed to start by building their confidence and empowering them to be change agents within their own communities and ultimately within the health landscape of Somaliland. It was not an easy process, but we got there with the support of partnerships, volunteers and lecturers from all over the world. For me, the contribution of THET and King’s College, London was especially important.
I could not have imagined the change I’ve seen. Twenty years later, I’m pleased to see those young women actively engaged in transforming themselves, their families and their communities. Many of them are leading successful organisations, projects and programmes. Empowering women truly does have long lasting effects on communities!
Over the last few months, I’ve worked with THET on their Gender and Health Partnership Study. My involvement in this again opened my eyes to the reality that we need to ensure that bright young women and indeed bright health workers in general are in decision making positions, as this is the only way, I believe, that we can ensure quality health services.
Roles are still determined by gendered culture norms and women often lack access to even the most basic information. Beyond challenges in being selected for roles, the vacancies and opportunities themselves are often spoken about and advertised out of working hours and in male dominated social spaces. Unable to access this information, women miss out on the opportunity to apply for jobs and ultimately therefore, often entirely, on new employment roles and promotions.
Being involved in this study has made me aware that we must adopt transformative approaches that are bold and innovative in order to ensure equity in health planning and programming as this will ultimately improve the quality of health services in Somaliland.