Global Health Film Days 2023: Women in Global Health

By: Giulia Mantovani, Fay Brasser – Festival volunteers at Global Health Film Days 2023

Today, on International Women’s Day, as the world turns to celebrate women’s achievements through history and across sectors, we take a moment to acknowledge the contribution of women to global health and recognize the challenges of achieving gender equality in global health. 

Who run the world global health?

Women are the backbone of the health and social care sector, one of the largest and fastest-growing employment sectors in the world. Women deliver health and care services for 5 billion people globally; they comprise 70% of the global health workforce and nearly 90% of nursing and midwifery staff. During COVID-19, women were on the front lines, carrying us through a pandemic which killed millions. Despite their essential efforts and expertise in the health systems, women have not been guaranteed a place in leadership and decision-making in global health. 

In March 2021, a report by the World Health Organization found that women hold just a quarter of the most influential leadership positions in global health. In 2020, for example, only 23% of national delegations of the World Health Assembly were headed by women. Women from the Global South and ethnic minorities are especially marginalized in global health decision-making. Why so few women are leaders in a majority female profession is a paradox. Decisions made without women are not only bad for women – they are bad for health systems and for the whole society. Unfortunately, gender parity in leadership is only one of the many aspects of gender inequality in global health. Women in the global health workforce continue to hold subordinate positions to their male counterpart, earning at  20% less than men in the sector, with millions of women grossly underpaid or unpaid, holding lower status roles, and being subject to discrimination, violence and sexual harassment. 

Global Health Film Days returns to Copenhagen on 15 – 23 April 2023

The tremendous contribution of women to global health systems is the point of departure for this year’s edition of the Global Health Film Days, the festival dedicated to movies about global health. 

For two years in a row, our team of students and staff at the School of Global Health of the University of Copenhagen has brought thought-provoking films and debates about our time’s most urgent global health challenges to the big screen. From infectious diseases, climate change and justice, sexual and reproductive health and rights, equal access to medicines and care, mental health, refugee health, food systems and diets, we have shown that discussing global health goes beyond discussing health only and that global problems require global solutions. By bringing together professionals, researchers, activists, patients, and organisations such as Læger uden Grænser (Médecins Sans Frontières) and Sex og Samfund, we have given a voice to people from the field who work around the globe to improve health for all, who fight to put pressing issues on the global health agenda, and who shared local solutions to global health challenges. We have inspired our audience to reflect on the interconnectedness of health and wellbeing in the face of challenges and to become the changemakers of tomorrow. 

This year we continue this journey with powerful documentaries that portray courageous and inspiring women in global health. They fight against unjust systems and provide care in the midst of violent conflicts and humanitarian crises; they are at the frontline of epidemics; and they deliver essential care in low-resource settings and amidst a shortage of caregivers. The movies also reveal how on an increasingly connected planet facing multiple threats and challenges, such as the climate crisis and food insecurity, women are disproportionately affected and experience worse health outcomes than their male counterparts. Our female protagonists use their strong voices to fight against the backlash against women’s rights and gender-based violence and fight for their freedom, bodily autonomy and sexuality. 

These are some of the compelling stories of the women you can meet on the big screen at Global Health Film Days. Through films, panels, key notes, discussions and interactive activities, we hope to inspire action for a more feminist and equal global health agenda of the future. 

Follow our social media (Facebook and Instagram) and stay tuned for more information about our official programme release on Thursday 9th March 2023. You can see the full festival programme and book your tickets on our website and on Cinemateket’s website. Student discounts and special prices for organizations are available.

We hope to see you all at the festival! 

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