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Wendy Harrison, CEO, reflects on International Women’s Day

19 March 2021

Inclusion is one of SCI Foundation’s core values

SCI Foundation is delighted to be celebrating International Women’s Day. Working towards a fairer world where no one is left behind is a value we apply in our everyday operations – we are aiming for a gender balanced senior management team. Currently four of our five SMT members are women.

However, we know that this is not representative of the UK overall; figures indicate that women account for only around one-fifth (21%) of leadership roles.

As an organisation working in the area of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in sub-Saharan Africa, inclusion is in our DNA and we know the disproportionate effects that these diseases have on women.

SCI Foundation/Uganda

SCI Foundation/Uganda

Schistosomiasis is associated with an increased risk of HIV infection in women

Women and girls are especially vulnerable to waterborne parasitic worm infections like schistosomiasis when carrying out domestic chores like water collection and laundry in infested water. This exposure can lead to further outcomes such as female genital schistosomiasis, a painful and incurable condition that can lead to infertility and increased risk of HIV infection, as well as stigma and discrimination due to the resemblance of symptoms to those of sexually transmitted diseases.

Raising awareness of female genital schistosomiasis in communities and amongst health professionals is critical to improving women’s mental and physical wellbeing, so more resources are invested to improve diagnosis and treatment.

SCI Foundation/End Fund/I Getachew

SCI Foundation/End Fund/I Getachew

The lack of women in health research and leadership roles

The neglect of female genital schistosomiasis as a health issue is partly a result of the lack of women, and particularly African women, in infectious disease research. Globally, just 30% of the world’s researchers are women. Additionally, according to WHO, women account for 70% of the global health and social care workforce, but only 25% occupy leadership roles.

International Women’s Day 2021 Panel Event

IWD 2021 Twitter 4.png

On this year’s International Women’s Day, we worked alongside partners to highlight the gender gap for NTD researchers in Africa.

We did this by generating dialogue through a panel discussion by prominent women researchers highlighting the importance of having women from countries in which NTDs exist, working in and leading NTD research.

Watch a replay of the event: International Women’s Day panel: African women in tropical disease research – YouTube