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Five Questions With…Dr. Amina Jama Mahmud

7 March 2022


This month we hear from Dr. Amina Jama Mahmud on why increasing opportunities for women’s leadership is so important, how this can be done in practice, and why we must #BreakTheBias to spark change and accelerate progress towards a gender-equal world.

1. Can you tell us about your journey into global health – who inspired you along the way?

As an African, Muslim, Immigrant woman in Europe, I had to learn to navigate prejudices, discrimination, and disparity at a young age, and I was made aware of the deeply embedded structural socio-economic inequalities in access to quality health and education. I learned that I had to make tough choices – either I see myself as a victim of the system, or I use my heritage and rich background as a resource.  This early year interaction in the Swedish system made me aware of the interconnectedness of this global phenomena and our capacity for change and greatly influenced my choice of studies, people, and place. I am indebted to my late mother in my process of professional and personal growth, without whom I would not be where I am today.

2. As the Founder of the Women in Global Health Somalia Chapter, why do you think it is important to redress the gender imbalance in global health leadership?

It is simple! For me, ignoring the majority of the workforce of the country is not only extremely illogical and irrational but negatively affects economic and human development[1].

3. What change is the Somalia Chapter working to achieve?

With the global health Somalia chapter, we strive to do two things: to increase the evidence base on current investments in the Somalia health workforce vs national and regional policy frameworks and decisions, and to create a platform for women to connect, network and build strong alliances, supporting structures for improved decision making in health. I have travelled to all parts of Somalia and every time I have been amazed by the strong, talented women at the grassroots level who with almost no resources manage to deliver incredible results on the ground. It is humbling and powerful to witness first-hand these women, and it is our commitment to change the narrative about Somali women and their competence and capacity in assuming leadership positions in health.

4. Do you have any advice for women who are currently aspiring leaders in health?

Listen and pay attention to your inner voice and compass and believe in your capacity to make change. Connect and forge meaningful partnership with likeminded women and men and remember, together we are stronger. Lastly, never accept no for an answer and do not wait to be invited to the table, “bring your own folding chair to the table”.

5. In your view, what is the significance of International Women’s Day for the global health community, and what does the 2022 slogan, #BreakTheBias, mean to you?

International Women’s Day has changed for the global health community since the COVID-19 pandemic. We have noticed an increased interest in women’s leadership, thanks to a focus on how female world leaders like Angela Merkel, Tsai Ing-wen and Jacinda Arden[2] have managed pandemic response compared to their male counterparts. Even though some gender scholars warn against essentializing “the feminine” approaches to the management of COVID19[3], I believe that their success has greatly contributed to changing the narrative on the ability of women to be effective leaders in global health. They have also shown why it is important for women to be included in policy making positions. We know that representation matters, and these leaders have inspired many young girls to believe that it is possible for women to become leaders. I am hoping that we will see more women of colour assume leadership positions, to inspire younger black and brown girls.

#BreakTheBias means that we have had enough of talks, we have the evidence, we know the needs and now it’s time to act!

never accept no for an answer and do not wait to be invited to the table, “bring your own folding chair to the table”.

This post was written by:

Dr. Amina Jama Mahmud - Founder, Women in Global Health Somalia Chapter


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