Women’s Health, Masculinities & Empowerment Training 2016 – What is it about?

Taking place in Gaborone, Botswana as from today (1st of September) until the 14th of September 2016, the Women’s Health, Masculinities and Empowerment: Policy Advocacy Training course has attracted almost 30 professionals, trainers and activists from the health, legal, research and human rights disciplines. All have a specific focus on advocating for improvements in women’s health and advancement as well as gender norms transformation and diversity.

Participants have come from diverse nations in the Africa region, including Uganda and Kenya in eastern Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa, Nigeria in West Africa and Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and South Africa in southern Africa.

Some of the participants shared their expectations of the course. “I find this training necessary to empower me on gender issues that affect both men and women to contribute to policies that will address issues of equality and equity in every aspect of life. With the experience of Botswana, men are still lagging behind in accessing health services, especially HIV services, due to their attitudes that negate health seeking behaviour. Women on the other hand continue to be infected due to a lot of dependence on men, which puts them at high risk of any forms of abuse and HIV infection. Therefore, I am expecting this course to help me understand the current contemporary issues and how best to handle them,” says Nonofo Leteane, manager at the National AIDS Co-ordinating Agency of Botswana.

“I have a strong passion for gender and inequality issues. I feel that there is a lot that needs to be done in order to empower women in our region. This course will enable me to improve my delivery of gender equality programmes, says Beaullah Zhangazha, from Zimbabwe.“Statistics show that women in Zimbabwe are the most affected by poverty. There is, therefore, a need for economic empowerment programmes to be designed so that women can be elevated from the current status. I am hoping that this course can shed light on what an impactful empowerment programme should look like,” she adds.

“It is largely assumed that lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women do not face the same issues that heterosexual women have. It is assumed that such women do not ‘reproduce’ and, therefore, they do not be face the same difficulties. I believe that taking part in this course will help our organisation and our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-sexual (LGBT) movement in Kenya to actively fundraise and design programmes for LBQ women and research. I believe that taking part in this course will equip me with the requisite knowledge to tackle this,” says Festus Kisa from Kenya.

Women’s Health, Masculinities and Empowerment: Policy Advocacy Training is an intensive short course at the intersection of women’s health and empowerment. Through the use of inter-disciplinary case studies and exercises participants are taught how to build women’s empowerment and gender norms transformation into health programmes and advocacy activities to maximise their effectiveness.

“The main purpose of the course is to provide participants with core knowledge and skills from several disciplines on how to improve women’s health and well-being globally”, says Dr Paula Tavrow, co-director of the University of California’s Centre of Expertise on Women’s Health and Empowerment.

“Upon completion of the course, it is expected that the participants will be equipped to explain women’s health disparities globally, apply interdisciplinary empowerment frameworks, use analytical tools to assess case studies, develop grant proposals in women’s health & empowerment and to identify various career paths and resources”, she explains.

“By prioritising women’s health concerns, rights and empowerment, and engaging various multi-sectoral role-players in health services and information provision, we can positively influence changes in society that will, in turn, result in sustainable improvements in the health and well-being of women, globally”, adds Itumeleng Komanyane, manager of the International Programmes and Networks unit at Sonke Gender Justice.

The course is being conducted at Botswana National Productivity Centre, in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana. It’s being offered in partnership with MenEngage Africa, the University of California’s Centre of Expertise on Women’s Health and Empowerment and Sonke Gender Justice.

The three partners came together to develop the course out of the realisation that across the globe, advances in women’s health are impeded by poverty, limited access to educational and economic opportunities, gender bias and discrimination, unjust laws, and insufficient accountability by governments. All of these forces intersect to restrict access to vital services and information that women and men need to improve their lives.