I remember attending my first Global Health Council event back in 2013-2014 when Global Impact started working closely with the Global Health Council (GHC). Their convening work with key players in the global health space interested me, especially as I had a few friends in the field who had the highest respect for their impactful work. Since then GHC has evolved, and while I haven’t been working on the partnership with Global Impact day-to-day, I have recently had the opportunity to tune back in to their work. Led by president and executive director Loyce Pace, GHC has taken a deliberate stand for racial justice in the global health sector and beyond. Like many others, I have been examining my own implicit biases and prejudices while working to understand racial inequalities. I have been listening, learning and growing over the past few months as I support the Black Lives Matter movement and work to become an ally in my personal and professional life.
Given the field in which I work, I have been interested in how systemic inequalities have impacted the global development sector. GHC’s work in this space has been especially helpful for my education on this important topic. Earlier this month, they launched a new YouTube series, “Black Voices in Global Health,” hosted by Loyce Pace. This is a series you are going to want to tune into.
The first installment of this series features Angela Nguku of White Ribbon Alliance Kenya and Kadi Toure of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. As they tackle the issue of democratizing global health, Angela and Kadi don’t hold back on the shortcomings they’ve observed in the sector.
After listening to these vibrant, gifted women, I felt a deeper understanding of the landscape and power flow in global health. I also found myself cheering them on, as their speech patterns quickened and became more impassioned. Their thoughts on breaking power barriers, the façade of altruism by the money holders, and the need to demolish and rebuild the foundation of global health programming were convicting and convincing. I understand why Loyce chose them to kick off this series. This conversation made me want to hear Angela and Kadi’s stories from childhood to where they stand now as powerful change-makers.
Here are some of the insights that I found most thought provoking:
- The current global health development sector is built on a Eurocentric foundation that needs a re-haul to break down the imbalanced power structure that currently exists.
- To take steps to decolonize global health we need to change the mindset that one voice counts more than another. Regardless of race or the money you bring to the table, we all have a role to play.
- To take steps to decolonize global health we need to change the mindset that one voice counts more than another. A deliberate move is needed to equalize all voices by lessening the volume of those bringing money to the table and turning up the volume of those most affected by the work being done. We all have a role to play.
- If the global health development sector is going to take a stand and preach equity and inclusion, more organizations need to ensure leadership represents diversity and elevate individuals from the communities being served. We need to let people contribute to their own development.
- The altruistic nature of development needs to be questioned. If we’re talking real development and real empowerment, all of us stand to gain, but we need to have honest and sincere conversations around decision-making in the sector.
- Historically in international relief and development, money holds power. However, since resources are not being used to solve the right problems in the right way, we should take a step back and examine whether the money is as important as we give it credit.
The conversation opened my eyes to the many challenges and dysfunction that currently exist, and I started to feel a little disheartened, until Loyce asked the perfect question: "What keeps their hope alive for this sector?" Both women mentioned the current movement to break down institutional barriers and the honest conversations that are happening, which can be the catalyst for change – honest conversations like this one between Loyce, Angela and Kadi that don’t sugar coat the issues and also identify solutions for progress.
As I mentioned before, Global Health Council has been having these hard conversations and addressing racism, injustices and the negative impact of colonization before this series started. Loyce has been a key player in this work. Although she let Angela and Kadi do most of the talking in the first installment of the series, Loyce, too, is a sharp, savvy leader with audacious goals for the global health sector. Here are some of her reflections:
- A 2020 Definition of Progress
- Real Talk on Racism in the Global Health Sector
- It’s Time to be Audacious
This is a critical time for our country’s future to take an audit of where we’ve been. An audit of oneself and where implicit bias has prevented you and others from growth. And an audit of the sectors we support. It’s time for us to make sure everyone has an equal voice at the table, even if it means quieting some (even the ones who hold the money!). Global Health Council is leading the charge in the global health space and I encourage you to follow their journey.