At the CSIH 24th Canadian Conference on Global Health in Toronto, I had the great pleasure of attending workshops and lectures by researchers and participants from across the world. I was captivated by the passion everyone brought to their projects and their commitment to their work. I was especially drawn to conversations relating to humanitarian work, the role of women in the field, the different professions that play a role in global health-related work and questions surrounding the best time to get involved and the implications of the latter.
The panel facilitated by the Red Cross team was informative in many ways. Listening to the real life experiences of expats and hearing about the sacrifices they made along the way, the hardships they encountered and what day-to-day life looked like was refreshing and eye-opening.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, gave an astounding talk about the role of women in solving the world’s problems. I greatly appreciated her message on the importance of women empowering other women:
“Because I believe that while not every woman in leadership acts in a way that is supportive of women, most do.”
“For the most part, these are women who want to make a difference for women – but there are not enough of them. The global average of women in parliaments is 23 per cent. The number of heads of state who are female is under eight per cent -- and that includes queens, by the way.”
During lunch breaks and networking events, I met with participants from all professional fields and from across the country and world. In particular, I was very pleased to meet a biomedical engineer who had global health field experience. The diversity in academic and professional backgrounds is crucial to develop a fulsome picture of the challenges we face as well as to brainstorm solutions together. I hope to have more opportunities to discuss global health within interdisciplinary contexts.
Finally, one personal conversation in particular I found to be memorable and enriching. After a workshop, I chatted with a panelist and some participants about what it meant to join the field of global health or humanitarian work as a woman. I had been wondering for quite some time about the “best time” to join the field, especially while being a single woman and wanting to eventually start a family. The other participants quickly joined in on the conversation, seeking advice and wanting to hear from the panelist’s personal experience. It would be worthwhile to have a space for more of these genuine conversations in conferences that bring together experts from across the world. Rather than hear of success stories only, it’s invigorating to hear about the process and the tough decisions that had to be faced and made along the way.
I am so grateful to the Canadian Society for International Health and the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research for this unique opportunity to be surrounded by individuals with similar aspirations.