Gender awareness creation and ways forward in the health and medical sector in Ethiopia


In December 2021, a one-day workshop to address gender inequality at the Haramaya University (HrU), College of Health and Medical Sciences (CHMS) in Ethiopia was supported by the Elisabeth Strouven Foundation and Maastricht School of Management (MSM).

The workshop was organized to create a discussion on key gender issues in the health and medical sectors and identify possible solutions. Thirty-nine participants of whom 27 were women joined the workshop in Harar town, Ethiopia. The participants ranged from senior staff and management to student union representatives and guests from the Harari Regional State Women and Social Affairs Bureau and Jigjiga University.

The main objective of the workshop was to introduce and institutionalize a gender action plan through collaborative problem identification and solutions. During the workshop, forum theatre was used as a tool to address gender issues in the health and medical sectors. Forum Theatre is often used by socially excluded and disempowered groups such as women. This form of theatre encouraged the audiences’ interactions in the workshop and enabled to explore different options for dealing with the issues of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and Reproductive Health (RH) among students of health and medicine.  One of the suggested solutions that came out of the theatre play was providing training for male staff and students to enhance positive masculinity so that men can stand against SGBV using their masculinity.

The participants were very enthusiastic about the forum theatre technique. “The forum theatre helped me to visualize the actual problem and its complexity” shared one of the participants, where another participant stated that the technique does not only show the complexity and interconnectedness of different practices and system but also helps to easily identify intervention points.

Strengthening collaboration against SGBV
As there is not one straight answer on how to handle SGBV, strengthening collaboration with external stakeholders is of importance. Therefore, having participants join from different institutes such as the regional Women and Social Affairs Bureau is important. Identifying and collaborating with key stakeholders at regional and national level was emphasized during the workshop. Gender training is needed to enhance the understanding of health workers such as pharmacists, nurses, doctors, and gynecologists on how the effectiveness of their services depends on their own and clients' gender ideology.

Results of the previously carried out gender assessment
The findings of the gender assessment, which was conducted from August to November 2021, were also presented during the workshop. One of the key gender issues identified in the health and medical sectors were lack of gender knowledge especially in the medical sector. Although the importance of gender in medical education is accepted by most of the respondents, gender was overlooked in medical education for various reasons which includes the masculine nature of the sector, course burden or workload of the medical field and scepticism and resistance attitudes.

To address the identified gender issues, below are suggestions mentioned that came out of the discussions between the participants during the workshop:

  1. While integrating gender in all the health and medical curriculum in the short term can be challenging, gender knowledge among staff and student needs to be strengthened immediately
  2. Leaders’ commitment to gender equality in health and medical sectors should be enhanced through training and by providing evidence-based information
  3. Gender units should be established both at the college level where teaching takes place, and in the teaching hospital, where practical learning takes place
  4. Guidelines for handling SGBV should be developed
  5. Establish and strengthen female staff networks and female students club to ensure for women’s voices get heard
  6. Create awareness to avoid the culture of tolerance toward sexual harassment
  7. Find a mechanism and work with resident doctors to address SGBV during the internship program  

The workshop was the last day of a training week on which the participants look back as a great learning experience. One of the women participants expressed the experience as that it was empowering to be able to express themselves.

MSM's Expert Centre for Emerging Economies

This institutional collaboration project is part of MSM's Expert Centre for Emerging Economies. The department is an expert centre on local economic development in emerging and developing markets.‚Äč We capacitate managers and professionals from government, private sector, NGOs, and post-secondary education in Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Latin America. We offer consultancy and customized training programs, and we manage complex projects in key sectors, e.g. water, agriculture and health. For more information click here.

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