Reimagining Leadership in Global Health: What’s Power Got to Do with It?

Reflections by Mbakulo Joanna, MCLD Uganda Country Coordinator. 

Between the 6-9th of April I was privileged to attend the Global Health conference in Dar es Salaam. The high-level engagement supported by WomenLift Health and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was about sharing knowledge, collaborating with others, and being part of the change. 

WLH catered for the participants by paying attention to details for the comfort of all. 

  • The majority of speakers were from Africa which greatly enhanced the experiences being shared. 
  • The conference venue, Julius Nyerere International Convectional Centre was a walking distance from the hotels where participants were accommodating, particularly participants who arrived from outside Dar and yet the conveners still provided standby vehicles for those who preferred not to walk to and from the conference venue. 
  • Information about the conference ranging from agenda, speakers, day events/pictures, updates, and much more were accessible on the WLH app that was made available to all participants.  
  • Travel to and out of Dar es Salaam was arranged by the convener and all we participants had to do was avail ourselves to learn, relearn, share, co-create and be inspired to collectively support the transition towards equitable power sharing.  

At the conference, I participated as a Speaker for the session titled ‘Reimagining Leadership: What’s Power Got to do with it.’ Coming from MCLD, an organization that has reimagined leadership and practiced it, I shared insights (what and how) from the perspective of the Movement for Community-led Development Uganda, as a lived experience. This was conducted in a conversation with other panelists from IPAS, ICRW, and WLH, curated by WLH alumni Sia Nowrojee, Priya Nanda, and Nandini Oomman. 

MCLD is walking the talk- of shifting power and creating models of shared leadership with a vision to democratize and achieve higher and sustainable impact. This is a new dimension of redistributing power where some of us have made bold moves; others are still thinking about how to do it. There are challenges, and risks involved though, we know a journey of thousand miles, begins with one step! During the convening, there was much to learn from the collective experiences of those who have begun the journey of leadership, and the opportunity to inspire and drive the momentum for change towards equality in leadership especially in health systems. In the health sector, women deliver the services led by men. During the conference, more equitable distribution of power was a key ask and strong recommendation. The conference was largely attended by female participants, approximately 95%. My opinion, in the process of redefining power structures, and challenging traditions and cultures, men should be included from the onset. 

My takeaways from the Global Health Conference, 2024: 

  1. Knowledge, insights, or tools I gained from the conference…. WOMEN ARE KEY CATALYSTS FOR SOCIAL AND HEALTH TRANSFORMATION. Given the necessary resources, women can make things happen. 
  2. The most helpful aspect I found about the conference….the LEARNINGS, SHARING EXPERIENCES, and COMPARING NOTES to reimagine leadership and what it means.
  3. Meaningful INTERACTION with conference participants and the INSPIRATION from many other female leaders across the globe particularly from Africa and Asia.

Overall, I feel the objectives of the conference were greatly achieved for example, reimagining health leadership and what good leaders look, act and sound like; highlighting the importance of women’s leadership and diversity of experience, perspectives and expertise towards improving health outcomes; offering a platform for honest conversations with a focus on allyship to catalyze gender equality; establishing the conference as a global platform to share knowledge, inspiration and tangible skills to build active connections to advance women’s journey to leadership in health; equipping emerging and established women leaders and male allies with tangible leadership skills through interactive workshops and trainings; and catalyze concrete action for change. 

To some extent the MCLD Network was strengthened by our presence and participation not only being speakers but also sharing about our work through the distribution of MCLD-U flyers to participants on first day. The network provided inspiration for resilience.