New WHO Candidates answer questions on girls’ and women’s health and rights

Posted by on Friday 12th May 2017

How will you ensure that girls' and women's health, rights and wellbeing is mainstreamed across WHO's work?

One of the most important organizations in global development, the World Health Organization (WHO), will soon have a new leader. The current Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, will complete her second and final term in June 2017, and her replacement will be chosen from a final pool of three talented candidates — two men and one woman. Below are their responses to the important question posed above.


Dr. Sania Nishtar: At the global scale, we must align with other United Nations institutions to unequivocally promote the fundamental right of every individual to health equity, without fear of discrimination or fear of violence. This necessarily calls for the formulation and endorsement of strategies to improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and education, and services, ranging from maternal health services and emergency obstetric care. This includes the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and other reproductive cancers, and the right to consensual marriage and safety from harmful traditions and violence. 

While the member states bear the responsibility to recognize and uphold these rights, WHO clearly has supportive and advisory role to play in order to in identify enabling factors and barriers to promoting the health of women and girls and promoting evidence based solutions to address them.


Dr. David Nabarro: As an International Geneva Gender Champion, WHO’s Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan has already signed the Geneva Parity Pledge, in addition to taking on the following two measurable and accountable commitments to further the principles of this commitment. By September 2016, the foundation module of the WHO gender, equity and human rights e-learning series on mainstreaming competencies will be completed by 80% of new staff at headquarters, and 90% of global staff of the Gender, Equity and Human Rights Team will have completed the whole series of seven modules. By September 2017, the number of WHO female staff in the professional and higher categories is to be increased by 3% from 42% in 2015 to 45% in 2017, with a focus on increasing the number of women at the P5 level and above.  I will abide by the Gender Parity Pledge and these additional commitments and will aim to develop others for subsequent years in line with the Gender Parity Pledge.


Dr. Tedros Adhanom (Current Ethiopian Minister of Health): Women, girls and young people must be at the center of WHO’s work and mandate – because when they thrive, everybody does. As Director-General, I will re-orient WHO’s approach to focus on women, children and adolescents, particularly those living in humanitarian, fragile and hard-to-reach settings. I will also strengthen WHO’s capacity to monitor results, resources and rights, in line with the goals of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and hold governments accountable for their commitments. 

I will advocate for increased investments, including a Grand Challenges initiative to address key gaps by developing innovations that empower women and girls. And I will continue and intensify WHO’s work with other UN agencies and global stakeholders and initiatives, including the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Family Planning 2020 and Women Deliver.


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