When women rise, everyone wins

This week, we’re celebrating Dr. Lillian Sekabembe, PSI Uganda Deputy Country Representative, Dr. Milly Kaggwa, PSI Senior Clinical Advisor for Africa, and Rachel MutukuPSI Senior Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Technical Advisor—three powerhouse PSIers who lift the voices and experiences of consumers we serve to catalyze health impact. 

The details:

  • Donor’s For Africa named Dr. Lillian Sekabembe as one of the 60 Top African Women in Development 2022.
  • Dr. Milly Kaggwa and Rachel Mutuku have been selected to join the inaugural East Africa WomenLift Health Leadership Journey. The Journey brings together talented women leaders from around the world to engage in independent and collaborative learning to deepen and elevate their leadership impact.
Rachel Mutuku
Dr. Lillian Sekabembe
Dr. Milly Kaggwa

We spoke with Dr. Lillian, Dr. Milly and Rachel to hear about the milestones that have shaped how these women rise up — and their vision for development’s future.

PSI: Dr. Lillian, reflecting on the milestones that have led to you being named a Top 60 African Women in Development what are some of the pivotal moments that inspired and shaped your development career?

Dr. Lillian Sekabembe: There are two watershed moments that are deeply etched on my mind.

The first was my initial foray into the workplace. My maiden placement after medical school was with the local government in Wakiso district. I plied my trade as a medical doctor in the rural and poor communities. In that place, I was able to see the overt difference in care and access to care among the different population quintiles–the wealth quintiles–between the poor and the rich. Access to care was very difficult, especially for the marginalized and the poor population. From there, I willfully determined that my energies would shift away from clinical work into development programs and supporting populations to grow and care for themselves better.

The second turning point emanated from my work at PSI. Working directly with Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) and other at-risk and vulnerable groups, it quickly became evident to me that girls and young women are the balance beams that tip the scales of society. They grow up to become mothers, caretakers in homes and the leaders of tomorrow. Yet in many instances, they remain vulnerable within the auspices of their environs and society. Unless these girls and young women are cared for, supported, and mentored into positions of decision making and spurred to have agency and voice for themselves, their households, villages and communities, then development will not occur for us as a country and continent.

PSI: Rachel and Dr. Milly, you are joining the first-ever East Africa WomenLift Health Leadership Journey. What do you hope to contribute to and get from the Journey?

Rachel Mutuku: I am excited… and hope to join other like-minded women in East Africa in amplifying our voices in sharing what is working and, most importantly, what is not working as we work toward increasing quality and equitable healthcare solutions.

Dr. Milly Kaggwa: I hope to get clarity around my personal leadership goals, and to use this renewed vision and energy to anchor myself in proven leadership principles, skills and approaches in my current work. I hope to use the leadership skills gained to help develop and refine sexual and reproductive health approaches in a way that draws attention to gender issues and improves the lives of women and girls across the countries in which I work. With COVID-19 changing the development landscape, I hope to learn from this network of women leaders in health, how to keep motivated, how to stay focused and how to help others achieve their goals.

PSI: The Journey includes a Leadership Project where you will design and lead an effort that taps into your expertise, network, passion, and creativity. What is your vision for your Leadership Project?

RM: I am passionate about young people. Young people continue to have unequal representation, care and support due to a lack of inclusion and shared power, particularly in the design, implementation and evaluation of services created for their health and well-being. Their voices are not amplified to be a part of the solutions that serve them through meaningful engagement, participation, and leadership. My vision is working toward a world where health systems are by design responsive to young people’s health needs and are adequately resourced to truly deliver for young people.

MK: Using the same behavior change theory and models for improving sexual reproductive health through our Quality of Care approaches, I want to develop a model that aims to turn health providers into gender and sexual reproductive health advocates. I am excited that this is a feasible and scalable intervention that can be achieved, within the existing scope and with the same funding. It will not be a hard sell and the tweaks to the existing programs do not have to be huge.

PSI: What’s your vision for African Women in Development today?

LS: I am very passionate about the development and mentorship of young people, especially adolescent girls, and young women. So, my inspiration remains to challenge harmful norms and stereotypes and to get women to seats at the table of decision making. I passionately use my abilities, experiences, and God-given gifts to positively impact the lives of many while remaining true to myself and conscious of my own health and wellbeing. I do this through mentoring, elevating, and supporting other young women and just women in general. Based on this, my vision is that African Women in Development today will be inclusive, tenacious, driven, diverse and, working tirelessly to improve lives and inspire a better future for all. Being a transformational African Woman in Development means building community and relationships and tackling the roots of oppressive structures and social norms that hold back progress for all people, particularly for women and girls.

PSI: How do you see Consumer-Powered Healthcare helping us all to achieve UHC and the SDGs? 

LS: As women, we have the locus of control within us. As individuals, we have the power and the ability to care for ourselves. Consumer-powered healthcare considers individuals as a critical part of delivering healthcare. This strategy ensures we design programs and solutions with consumers as part of the process. As such, we are scaling up innovations such as self-care for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including HIV self-testing, self-Injectable contraceptives, etc. All of these are greatly inspired by the discipline of human centered design and have proven potential for bringing health care closer to the consumer in a timely, affordable, and convenient manner, enabling us to achieve the tenets of Universal Health Coverage. In so doing, we contribute significantly to achieving some of the desired outcomes within the SDGs such as reducing Measles-Mumps-Rubella, ending epidemics like HIV and ensuring universal access to SRHR services (all within SDG 3). Consumer-Powered Healthcare underscores inclusion, which is also at the core of the SGD—ensuring that no individual across the community irrespective of social status, age, gender, etc. is left behind.

RM: UHC2030’s mission is to create a movement for accelerating equitable and sustainable progress towards universal health coverage (UHC). For this movement to be truly successful, it must have people at the center and the systems must be well equipped are equitable and efficient in better supporting people to exercise greater autonomy, power, and control of their own health. Consumer Powered Healthcare is about reimagining how healthcare can be delivered differently by ensuring people are at the center of their own health journeys.

Dr. Milly: Through our Consumer Powered approach to healthcare, PSI collaborates with local partners, institutions and provider networks to strengthen the quality of care of integrated health care within a strong, mixed health system. By adapting the way, we can leave a new footprint of gender sensitive and transformative approaches. This way, PSI contributes to building integrated and resilient health systems while centering women and girls in health.

PSI: What do you want the next generation of African Women leaders to know?

LS: The current generation exists to catapult the next generation. We are the giants on whose shoulders the next generation should step on. Unless we are strong enough and available to build the next generation, then we will not realize an equipped generation of other female leaders. We should provide a stellar example so that the generation coming after us has a pedestal to benchmark on. They should be more resilient and persevering in the face of obstacles. They should challenge existing gender stereotypes and sit at the table to pave a way and make lives better for the ones coming after them. As leaders, they should be servants of the people. They should lead to elevate and support those in their communities. We need transformative female leadership in development to face the unprecedented challenges of our times. The continent should harness women’s knowledge, skills, and talents to reclaim its future.

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