Rwanda: Quality Health Care Is Not for a Privileged Few - First Lady

Photo: New Times
First Lady Jeannette Kagame, Princess Dina Mired of Jordan (on her right), Dr Paul Farmer (on her left), Minister of Health Diane Gashumba (2nd from left) alongside other officials during the Women Leaders in Global Health conference at the Kigali Convention Centre.
9 November 2019

The First Lady of Rwanda Mrs. Jeannette Kagame has called for strong policies, laws and mechanisms in the health sector in a bid to see that all human beings have access to quality health services and care they need.

She was speaking in Kigali during the annual Women Leaders in Global Health conference, an event hosted by the University of Global Health Equity in partnership with Women Leaders in Global Health Initiative to promote women's leadership globally.

The two-day conference is the first WLGH held in Africa. It has hosted over 100 influential speakers from varied sectors in global health to hold discussions in line with advocating for the next generation of global health leaders.

Speaking to the delegates, Mrs. Kagame stressed the need for coming up with ways to see that people regardless of their economic status or other variations are able to have quality health care.

"Quality health care is not the preserve of a privileged few, but the fundamental right of all citizens," she said.

"To afford all human beings access to the quality health services and care they need, when they need them, is to afford them dignity and control over their own lives."

According to Mrs. Kagame, to achieve this, there is a need for "more than strong policies," laws and mechanisms in the health sector, as well as right people in the right places, making the right decisions at the right time.

"We also need diversity at the top; a leadership that is representative of the population it serves, and one that can bring to light - in the most accurate way possible - and address the multifaceted nature of our health needs and aspirations," she said.

"In short, we need more women at the top."

According to the World Health Organisation, female health workers make up 70% of the global health workforce, yet only 25% of women hold leadership positions.

Highlighting that more than 66% of Rwanda's Community Health Workers are female, Mrs. Kagame said that there is a significant number of qualified and experienced women contributing to the health sector, yet enough space has not been created for them to make decisions and voice their "clearly informed opinions on what ought to be the solution to the challenges facing the health sector."

"Improving women's leadership in the health sector requires a multi-faceted, multi-partner and multi-sector approach, as it speaks to the enforcement of gender equality and equity, across the board," she said.

Speaking at the same event, Dina Mired, the Princess of Jordan said women are drivers of healthcare delivery and change agents.

"Women are tireless custodians of healthcare, yet it is mind-boggling not to offer them seat at the decision table."

Dr. Paul Farmer, the Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity hailed Rwanda's "massive" investment in health and education over the last 20 years, helping the country to achieve "the steepest declines in mortality ever documented at any time and at any place."

The Women Leaders in Global Health (WLGH) Conference was launched in 2017 and has since served as a convening mechanism for leaders in global health. The conference aims to engage the global health community by creating transformative experiences to advance opportunities for emerging female leaders and help bridge the gap in gender imbalances in global health leadership positions and improve access to female healthcare.

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