In her second article of The “Women As Agents of Change” series, Julie Potyraj looks into how women across the world are working to reduce maternal mortality.
Even though many global health initiatives focus on issues related to women’s health, and though women make up the majority people working in the field, global health is predominantly led by men. Many global health funding agencies have a noticeable lack of female leadership throughout their histories. But can male-led organizations lead to the type of improvements in women’s health that the world so desperately needs?
Studies have shown that women in leadership positions in governmental organizations are more likely than their male counterparts to implement policies that are supportive of women and children. In 2003, women won nearly 50 percent of the lower house of parliament seats in Rwanda. Though they faced obstacles, these women started a dialogue about the importance of women’s empowerment, initiated pro-child legislation, and prioritized the needs of women and children in the budget. We’re also starting to see that increasing women’s leadership in global health is directly connected with improvements in health outcomes for women and children. In India, for example, there was a 1.5 percent reduction in neonatal mortality rates for every one standard deviation increase in women’s political representation at the district council level. Essentially, as the number of women in government increased, the rates of neonatal mortality decreased. (more…)