I am happy to celebrate International Women’s Day with you on 8 March. The theme this year is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” and it calls on us all to stand on the right side of history, to address inequities, for our peers and for future generations.
In the spirit of this theme, today, I commit to supporting the next generation of female leaders in health in Africa. I am very happy to launch the Africa Young Women Champions Initiative in partnership with the UN Volunteers Programme. In the coming months we will recruit 100 national and international UN volunteers in the African Region, and we will be targeting young women from the global south to boost equity and empowerment.
We will be looking for candidates to work in technical areas, such as family health, nutrition, disease prevention and control, information management and innovation, as well as communications, external relations, general management and administration.
This Initiative comes at the right time for WHO in the African Region. We have committed to achieving gender parity among WHO staff, and although we are making progress, we still have work to do. Women now account for 33% of our workforce, up from 27% in 2015.
We need more women to apply for jobs with WHO in the African Region – currently only one-quarter of our applicants are female.
Within WHO, we are building the capacities of female staff. For example, we supported the training of an all-female cohort through our leadership development programme. We have established a mentoring and support programme, and we have set-up a task force to promote a more conducive working environment for women in WHO in the African Region.
Together, we need to do more to empower women, include building skills beyond traditional training, addressing social norms, and helping the next generation of girls.
Gender equality is a priority now, and for the health and well-being of future generations. Investments in equality will benefit us all – women, men, girls and boys.