Report: WGH Norway Annual Conference 2021

Women in Global Health (WGH) Norway celebrated its second Annual Conference in October. The event was co-hosted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Centre for Global Health (CGH), University of Oslo (UiO).  

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Live stream recording - available here

The aim of the conference was to create a scientific and clinical arena for discussion of global health issues, strengthen standards and improve cooperation and networking between persons and institutions engaged in relevant topics. The conference shed light on how to improve and maintain good health in populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Event page with full program - see here


Ingeborg K. Haavardsson, leader of WGH Norway and Brita S. Pukstad, the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, NTNU, welcomed the audience. The conference moderators, Jennifer Infanti, Researcher at the Faculty of Medicine and Health and Elodie Besnier, PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Social and Educational Studies, NTNU led the sessions.

left to right: Elin Yli Dvergsdal, Jennifer Infanti & Ingeborg K. Haavarsson Photo: Hans Hadders, NTNU

Session 1: Critical issues in women’s health in the post-pandemic era

In the first session, scholars, activists and health care providers shed light on the health conditions of women in the post pandemic world, focusing on critical global health issues for the next decade. These are issues where girls and women suffer disproportionate burdens, risks and adverse health impacts, but also where women’s capabilities and resources have been largely under-utilized.

Session 1 speakers included:  

  • Mirjam Lukasse, Professor in Midwifery at the University of South-Eastern, gave an interesting speech about violence against women, mentioning that one in four women experiences violence in her life.
  • Gudrun Østby, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), discussed armed conflict and maternal care delivery 
  • Namrata Pradhan, PhD Candidate at the Department of Public Health and Nursing, NTNU, described costs of unpaid care work among Nepalese women who care for their disabled children.
  • Maria Lisa Odland, Post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Public Health and Nursing, NTNU emphasized access to safe abortion care.
  • Grete Herlofsen, Secretary General at the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association, gave a fantastic speech on women's health in the post-pandemic world.

The session closed with remarks from career leaders in global health: Berit Schei (NTNU), Elisabeth Darj (NTNU), Johanne Sundby (UiO).

Johanne Sundby at the WGH Norway Annual Conference Photo: Hans Hadders, NTNU

Key facts and statements:

  • Global prevalence of intimate partner violence (2000-2018, WHO): 641 million and up to 753 million married/partnered women aged 15 years and above have been subject to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at least once since the age of 15;
  • Conflict reduces access to institutional births (47,000 additional children are born outside health facilities every year in Sub-Saharan Africa);
  • Children in Nepal often do not have access to appropriate healthcare facilities; parents are the caregivers of children with disability; 79 % of them are women, which makes them even more vulnerable;
  • Worldwide, about 55 million abortions occur every year and almost half of them are unsafe.
Grete Herlofsen and Mirjam Lukasse Photo: Hans Hadders, NTNU

Before the break and as a recognition to the global health leaders, Professor Jon Øyvind Odland played the piano.

Session 2: Women leadership and the global health agenda - what’s next?

The second session provided a platform to expand the voices of change makers working towards the WGH vision of gender equality within global health leadership. The speakers focused on how to create gender equality in health organizations and why and how men can and must engage as allies, supporters and collaborators in women’s organizations, groups and conferences.

Session 2 speakers included:  

  • Andrea S.Winkler, Special Counselor for WGH Norway and Deputy Director at the Centre for Global Health, UiO, discussed how to move the WGH Agenda forward.
  • Fiffi Mukwege Namugunga, Social Entrepreneur and founder of SayuniHub, focused on capacity building and sustainability as a foundation for women’s participation and leadership. Her organization in Congo focuses on reducing unemployment among women.

Memorable statements from Session 2: 

  • “In a pandemic, no one is saved until everyone is safe.” (Andrea S. Winkler)
  • Fifi Mukwege Namugunga demonstrated how challenges due to lack of structures in the Democratic Republic of Congo can be solved by using the United Nations development goals.
  • The pandemic has hit women and girls the hardest while women remain underrepresented in decision-making processes.

The panel focusing on 'Women Leadership in Global Health Organizations in a Post-pandemic Era,' consisted of: 

  • Grete Faremo | Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UNOPS
  • Bernadette Kumar | Advisory Group, WGH Norway 
  • Helga Fogstad | Executive Director, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health 
  • Ingrid Stange | Founder and Chair, Partnership for Change 

In order to achieve a more sustainable world, Grete Faremo, calls for:  

  1. Women to be more adequately represented in economy; 
  2. Gender equality in the center of every project;
  3. Finding out what prevents women from leadership positions.

Making gender equality explicit by Helga Fogstad:

  • During outreach it is important to include young women at an organizational level in order to achieve gender equality.
  • There has to be an availability to good governance, training, and education for girls and women.
  • Monitoring has to be realized in order to improve as a population. 
  • We need role models portraying women in leadership roles. 
Bernadette Kumar and Ingrid Stange Photo: Hans Hadders, NTNU

Bernadette Kumar about a lifecycle approach in leadership:  

  • Leadership should be conducted in a lifecycle approach.
  • Leadership should start early in life (e.g. at schools).
  • Women leadership should be throughout the system, not only at the top-level.

Ingrid Stange on what good leadership means:  

  1. Being close to the targeted population and act according to their needs;
  2. Being autonomous;
  3. Implementing talent development;
  4. Being value driven (leading people towards a shared goal); 
  5. Having clear rules and guidelines.

Final remarks and discussion points from the panelists included:  

  • Women must work in a safe environment;
  • Strong accountability mechanisms are required in order to receive a strong female workforce;
  • Diversity must be seen as a strength and should be encouraged;
  • Recruitment must focus on gender equality;
  • Measurements in hospitals should be changed (e.g. asking how many women are in leadership positions).

Jeanette H. Magnus, Special Counselor for WGH Norway and Director, Centre for Global Health, UiO and Peter Baker, Director at Global Action on Men’s Health, elaborated on why and how men can and must engage as allies, supporters and collaborators with women organizations, groups and conferences. Men have been impacted by serious COVID-19 cases and are more likely to die than women, while women tend to be more exposed to socially constructed challenges than men.

Conference speakers and organizers Photo: Hans Hadders, NTNU

NTNU has written an interesting blog post about the WGH Norway Annual Conference and the Global Health Norway Conference that took place in Trondheim the day before.

Read - blog post

By Laura Herget
Published Nov. 12, 2021 11:43 AM - Last modified May 11, 2022 11:13 AM