Women Leaders in Global Health (WLGH)

The role of women, as primary caregivers in families, health workers and key decision makers for population health is globally understood. Approximately 38 % of India’s workforce is female; 30% of this workforce comprises nurses and midwives, alongside a cadre of close to a million strong frontline health workers, or ASHAs. At higher levels of qualification, female representation dwindles: only 16% of biomedical doctors are female; only 6% in rural areas. Women are not commonly found in very senior positions in the health domain in India, in line with global trends.

In these situations nationally and globally, the south Indian state of Kerala presents a refreshingly different picture. Kerala has the highest female health workforce (64.5%) in India  and eight times the female doctor density than other Indian states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Apart from having a female Health Minister, all the technical Directors – Allopathic medicine, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, and Medical Education – are females. half of the heads of administration in fourteen districts of Kerala, District Medical Officers (DMOs) and half of nearly six thousand allopathic doctors working in government health department are females. Kerala’s nurse cadre has made major contributions to the global nursing workforce, particularly in high income countries.

The study proposes to carry out fieldwork that identifies women health leaders in India in order to contribute to

  1. ongoing women’s health and health equity-linked projects in India,
  2. contribute towards peer reviewed publications and an edited volume chapter for a book being put together by the RinGS consortium on Women Leaders in Global Health (WLGH),
  3. develop a methodology that can be replicated in other countries that seeks to highlight the accomplishments, challenges and visions of women health leaders globally.

Research Methodology:
The study has identified 20 women health leaders in the state of Kerala (ranging from senior leadership down to frontline health workers within and outside of government service) to reflect on the how women’s leadership in this domain has been fostered and challenged. Following consent procedures with the participants, the study will be carrying out interviews on key themes of WLGH (i.e. work recognition, work-life balance, leadership styles, goals, and career advancement). With permission, photography and videography will also be included, including of scenes from their work and lives that participants would like to share.

Current Status: A majority of fieldwork is complete, analysis and video-documentation are underway.

Potential Impact:
The study intends to raise the profile of women leaders of the health sector in Kerala India while also fostering conversation on the challenges and accomplishments of women in the health sector.

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