Feminist Principles in Action: Insights from Anamaria Bejar of GACI, The Vaccine Alliance

Over the past several months we have been exploring how leaders in global development bring feminist values into their work.  We had the chance to connect with Traci Baird and Viviana Waisman and, in our third installment of the series, we welcomed  Anamaria Bejar to share more about the future of feminist leadership, and women in leadership more generally, particularly in Global Health.

Anamaria is a renowned leader in advocacy and global health with years of experience working in HIV / AIDS.  She has led teams and programs in the International HIV / AIDS Alliance and International Planned Parenthood Federation.  She is currently serving as the Director of Public Policy Engagement at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

With her background in global health, both in organisations that focus primarily on women’s health as well as broader populations, we were keen to hear her reflections on leadership across the sector.  A recent study published by Women in Global Health stated that “Women hold around 70% of health worker jobs globally, over 80% of nursing and over 90% of midwifery roles, deliver the majority of unpaid care and domestic work in families and communities, and make the majority of health purchasing and usage decisions. Women lead the delivery of health to 5 billion people and contribute an estimated US$ 3 trillion annually to global health, half in the form of unpaid work. Yet women hold only 25% of leadership roles in health."  When discussing these discouraging statistics with Anamaria, she acknowledged that we are still living in a patriarchal world where cultural, social, and economic determinants still block people from thriving.  However, feminism and feminist leadership provide a means to combat these challenges.  "The way in which you project yourself, bring others along, give opportunities and…fight - sometimes fiercely, sometimes gently for your place" are key steps towards actively shifting these statistics.

Anamaria is also heartened by the attitudes and approaches of younger people entering the workplace.  She reflected on a time when to succeed as a leader, women were “acting like a man in a man’s world”.  Now, young leaders are not putting up with practices of the past and are instead constructing new, feminist ways to lead.  However, young people need the chance to demonstrate this leadership and these opportunities are sometimes made more difficult based on where they come from or their background.  As a woman from Latin America, Anamaria reflected on how it can be challenging for folks outside of the Global North. The principle of equity acknowledges that each person does not face the same challenges, and in order to overcome additional obstacles some may face because of their origins, background, or identity, you may need more support.  While positive discrimination in recruitment sometimes gets a bad reputation, it can also create equitable opportunities for leaders to demonstrate their capability.

At SRI Executive, one example we see of organisations creating opportunities for more diverse candidates is the on-going shift to competency and value-based screening.  We are seeing more flexibility in education and experience requirements in favor of other types of knowledge built from a wider range of experiences.  We are also seeing organisations reflect on their composition and diversity more closely.  Key considerations include how decisions are made, who is making them, and how representative those voices are of their staff or beneficiaries.  We are excited to support these shifts and work with our clients to actively reflect on how to align their work with their values.

As this is the last installment in this series (for now!) we encourage you to reflect on your own values and how they show up in your work, your relationships, and your leadership.  Please feel free to reach out with any further reflections and in the meantime, we will leave you with Anamaria’s advice to: “Take risks”! 



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