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Giving women a voice on health services in Côte d’Ivoire

One of the aims of the ACT WOMEN: Empowering Women and Adolescent Girls in Tchologo Communities project led by Action Against Hunger ($5.2 million, 2021-2026) is to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health by increasing their participation in local decision making. The local health centres supported by the project had very few women represented on their management committees: just 16%, despite a national target of 30%.

As a result of his engagement in the project, Dr. Siagbe Soungole, the Chief Medical Officer of the Sikolo urban health centre in Ferkessédougou, put forth a proposal that would increase women’s participation, breaking with current social norms.

“To address the challenge of women’s representation on management committees, it would be more effective to tell community leaders to designate 2 representatives of different genders to join management committees. They would be told to propose 1 man and 1 woman to represent their community.”

“Women have long been relegated to the background and are continually being subjected to decisions made by men. Yet men do not always understand the specific nature of women’s needs in the areas of sexual, reproductive and maternal health. It is true that problems specific to women’s health are not discussed in depth at management committee meetings. This is why they need to actively participate,” says Dr. Soungole.

Dr. Soungole’s proposal is a concrete example of how positive masculinity can help advance women’s rights. Thanks to his recommendations, all of the ACT-WOMEN project’s other 14 management committee partners were invited to staff their management committees with 20 members, giving priority to women who would be able to share their perspectives. Through advocacy and training activities, 86 women joined 15 health centre management committees, doubling the proportion of women: from 15% to 30%.

Dr. Siagbe Soungole, Chief Medical Officer of the Sikolo urban health centre and gender Champion for ACT WOMEN, is committed to positive masculinity and women’s representation on health management committees.
Credits: © Action Contre la Faim Côte d’Ivoire / Marie Laure Tohouri-Missan, Côte d’Ivoire, 2022
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