Women in Health: It’s Time to Take Lead

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Salin Amponnavarat is a third-year medical student at Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, Thailand. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The celebration of International Women’s Day 2021 has passed. Many social movements happened, gender equity has been brought into spotlight, sexism and misogyny has been challenged. We have also seen much progress in a national landscape. Thai government has passed an abortion bill following decades of advocacy and campaign for safe abortion, young girls have led a ‘me too’ movement to speak up about sexual harassment in school and universities, several movements are also happening right now to abolish the tampon tax and end the period poverty.

I believe we are making a new decade of hope and equality for our future generation, but it is far from enough, and we need to keep pushing further.

Why do we need more women and non-binary in leadership position? Considering the spectrum of SRHR to deal with, not all policy coming from a male-led decision-making panel has women’s rights and gender equality at their best interests, as observed from the abortion ban in certain countries. The pandemic also aggravated the situation by leaving more women in more vulnerable positions. It is also noteworthy that most of the successful movements toward gender equity have been led by women and non-binary people. 

Yet it was rather a disappointment to see how under-represented women and non-binary people are in health leadership and decision-making positions. In the health sector in which the majority of the workforce are women, only a few are in executive positions and get to make real impacts. 

Take for example that just 23% of chief delegates to the World Health Assembly (WHA) are women, gradually diminishing from 31% in 20171 This gender disparity is observed from international to local scene. The panel of COVID-19 Task Forces are even less diverse in terms of gender diversity. Not to mention that there is only one woman serving as a dean from 24 Thai medical schools and from out of the 30 elected committee members of the Medical Council of Thailand, only 5 of them are women. 

We are to ask ourselves if a fair opportunity to excel has been offered equally to all gender, rather than to question their performance. Women and non-binary are not to be pushed aside when it comes to taking leadership roles and taking charge. I believe it’s time for women to take the lead and choose to challenge the status quo as much as it’s time for those in leadership positions to “walk the talk” about gender equity. By acting now, we are setting an example for our future generations of healthcare workers, our daughters and sisters to show them the world where gender does not limit their opportunities in life and it does not place them as a disadvantaged position.

References

  1. Dhatt, R. (2020, May 20). World health assembly and Gender: Three steps forward, many more to Go: Think global health. Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/world-health-assembly-and-gender-three-steps-forward-many-more-go
  2. About the author
  3. Salin Amponnavarat is a third-year medical student at Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, Thailand. She is also working as Vice President for External Affairs for IFMSA-Thailand. Her main interest in global health drives her advocacy for meaningful youth involvement in decision-making, and empowering medical students to develop a global mindset and lead the initiatives to improve their local communities.

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