On October 1 we hosted a live virtual event in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, covering the topic of Engaging Women in Vector Control.
The event highlighted the Accelerate to Equal Initiative, which strives to understand and overcome the barriers to women’s engagement in these public health efforts. Ultimately, the project aims to leverage women’s roles as leaders within their families and communities to more effectively and sustainably fight the global malaria epidemic, and other vector-borne diseases.
The event featured Dr. Mary Hayden, of the University of Colorado, and Dr. Kacey Ernst, of the University of Arizona, along with their collaborators from around the world, including:
Prosper Chaki– Ifakara Health Institute and Pan-African Mosquito Control Association, Tanzania
Diverse audiences tuned in worldwide, to ask these global experts their questions in our live Q/A. Students, doctors, researchers, public health officials and community leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Cameroon, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States and more all joined the conversation to find out how they can contribute to these efforts and enact changes in their communities to engage women and fight vector-borne diseases, and other global health threats.
Their questions sparked a lively discussion that had to be cut short at the end of the event-- we will continue the conversation here, addressing outstanding questions from the audience with this follow-up Q/A.
For those who missed the event, the recording is now available on-demand with FREE registration at:
1. How to balance women’s roles in their families with vector control work:
What strategies are used to secure women's positions at PMI after taking maternity leave?
Submitted by Nathalie Amvongo Adjia-- Research Associate, Institute of Medical Research & Medicinal Plants Studies, Cameroon
ZB & HA: The PMI VectorLink Project has a well-documented policy regarding women due for maternity leave. While away on maternity leave, their positions are only temporarily filled by another staff member on the project. She will return to take up her role after her leave period is over. Should it become necessary for her to travel outside the work station for an overnight stay, she is allowed to go along with a nanny who can take care of her child while she is out in the field undertaking the activity. The nanny and baby-related travel and lodging costs are paid for by the project. This is to help encourage the breastfeeding of children up to 24 months and mother-child bonding is not affected.
How can women be effectively involved in vector control without failing in their responsibilities at home? This is the fear many women express.
Yengo Bernis Neneyoh-- Student, University of Buea, Cameroon
ZB & HA: Support is critical for success in every endeavor. Once a woman takes on additional responsibility, it is necessary to seek family buy-in so they can provide the needed support and take off some of the responsibilities in the home. Delegation, rescheduling, and prioritization of tasks are skills critical for success in managing these responsibilities both at home and at work. These are management skills and it may not come naturally to some. It may need to be learned. Sometimes women (especially professional women) may have to identify what support systems exists and how to access and benefit from them. Organizations may have to provide support so women can effectively juggle their responsibilities. These may come with some added cost and this causes some organizations to shy away from recruiting more women.
2. Men’s reactions and roles in engaging women:
Has there been push-back from men and/or government leaders with the involvement of women?
Karla Shepard Rubinger-- Mary Ann Liebert Inc., United States
ZB & HA:Governments are trying to improve on women's' participation in development by introducing policies and revising laws that inhibit female inclusion. This is an ongoing process. As norms are shifting, some barriers to action will be impacted and women will be able to participate more. Still, these norms are slowly shifting and social perceptions of male and female roles continue to persist. This is where some of the push-back comes from, so opportunities may be created using policies to increase women's participation in development but the steps needed to proceed may not exist.
How can men support increased engagement of women in vector control?
Emma Orefuwa-- Chief Executive, Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections, United Kingdom
ZB & HA: Women in vector control are few. This means that:
The support of men in vector control is needed to build the capacity of women to function within the field.
It requires commitment from men who are largely heads of organizations / decision-makers to examine the evidence of the contribution women provide to the field and make decisions to increase the number of women in their organizations. Male leaders must help to create/promote policies in their organizations, suach as maternity leave, that enable women to carry out their tasks effectively.
Being the head of households, men can support women by taking up some of the tasks women do at home to allow them to engage in vector control.
Men can involve women in decision making at all levels.
Shannon Weiman earned her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, specializing in microbiology and immunology. Prior to joining the Keystone Symposia team, she worked as a freelance writer for leaders in academic, industry and government research, including Stanford University’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative, the University of Colorado’s Biofrontiers Program, UCSF, the FDA and the American Society for Microbiology.