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The Centre for Global Child Health celebrates International Women's Day 2019
8 minute read

The Centre for Global Child Health celebrates International Women's Day 2019


Female leaders at Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives share how they are catalyzing change at the local and national level to improve health care for newborns, children and youth and helping to secure a brighter, more prosperous future for Ghana.

According to a recent report in The Lancet, women make up 70 per cent of the global health workforce, but are vastly underrepresented in leadership positions. International Women’s Day (March 8) is an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and call for action to achieve a gender-equal world. Through the SickKids-Ghana Paediatric Nursing Education Partnership (PNEP), between the Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives (GCNM) and the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, nurses in Ghana are being given the tools and opportunities to enhance evidence-based paediatric nursing practice, and to develop leadership abilities to reach their full potential as health professionals. Paediatric nurses are challenging the status quo, changing perception of nurses’ roles, and advancing the health and rights of women and children in Ghana.

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, female leaders at GCNM share how they are catalyzing change at the local and national level to improve health care for newborns, children and youth and helping to secure a brighter, more prosperous future for Ghana.

Dr. Abigail Kyei is the President of GCNM and Project Sponsor of PNEP.

Hannah Akua Oparebea Acquah is the Rector of GCNM and the Project Director of PNEP.

1. Why do we need more women in leadership positions (in the health sector and other sectors) to advance women’s and children’s health?

AK: Women bear, nurture and raise children who in turn grow up to develop their societies further. Children perpetuate what they learn from their nurturers, so when women are adequately empowered to take up leadership positions, they are better able to educate and mentor the children they raise, as well as their fellow women.

HA: Leadership means pulling along followers towards a desired objective. If anyone has to advance the health of women and children for optimal realization, it’s women. Women understand the health issues of women better because they have firsthand experience of what it feels like to be a woman and the pressing day-to-day challenges of women. Women are the bearers and carers of children, and they naturally gain experience in the health needs of children along the stages. Women are the best advocates for women and children and therefore need more opportunities to lead their own course.

2. Why is strengthening paediatric nursing in Ghana important?

AK: When the health of children improves, the future of the country is brighter because healthier children have higher tendency to develop into healthy adults who will help develop the nation.

HA: To safeguard the health of children, it is critical that nurses are trained to provide care that is appropriate for their developmental stages and not care that considers them as little adults. Strengthening paediatric nursing in Ghana will ensure that every child living in the country will have the benefit of being cared for by a paediatric nurse. This will further help in the reduction of child mortality and morbidity and improve the wellbeing of children —the future of nations. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing children grow into healthy, productive adults and citizens who can contribute meaningfully to the success story of a nation.

Charity Asantewaa Acheampong, full-time faculty member, GCNM, shares her leadership journey and her role in supporting paediatric nursing colleagues to provide evidence-based care:

3. What structural barriers to women’s full engagement and leadership opportunities are being addressed at the GCNM? What is your vision for the future of nursing in Ghana?

AK: By recruiting more women into the specialist training programmes that GCNM offers, the number of potential leaders in health care is increasing. As they complete their training and start practicing, more women will be in leadership positions to influence policy and address any pertinent issues concerning the health care of individuals and communities. My vision is that nurses will be equipped with updated knowledge and skills to render excellent care to our patients, and be research-oriented to provide evidence-based solutions to address health issues that are especially peculiar to our local setting.

HA: GCNM addresses structural barriers to women’s full engagement and leadership by providing higher education opportunities for nurses, advocating for study leave with pay from employers, providing partial or full bursary for tuition, building cordial relationships between education teams and residents, ensuring gender sensitivity/equality training throughout the learning period, and advocating for their recognition and proper placement after the programme. My vision for the future of nursing is to strengthen the profession through capacity building and research for improved quality of nursing care and the image of nursing nationally and internationally.

Anna Hayfron Benjamin, part-time faculty member, GCNM, reflects on how she balances her multiple roles as an African woman striving to improve outcomes for children in Ghana:

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4. What is GCNM doing to promote paediatric nursing in Ghana?

AK: Through PNEP, more nurses are receiving specialist training to improve paediatric nursing care in Ghana.

HA: GCNM has trained 181 paediatric nurses across the country, with a focus on underserved areas, with a target of training 500 paediatric nurses through a one-year competency-based programme by the end of 2020. As part of building capacity in Ghana’s health system, 1,000 additional nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals will also be trained in continuing professional development courses in nutrition, newborn care, and sickle cell disease by the end of 2020. GCNM has also supported paediatric nurses to form a Paediatric Nurses Association of Ghana, and will continue to support them through capacity building activities.

Elizabeth Asiedu, preceptor, GCNM, shares how she has developed confidence and skills to address the unique health needs of children and imparts her knowledge onto her paediatric nursing residents in Ghana:

5. Who are the paediatric nurses in Ghana? What per cent are women? What is being done to ensure they are the leaders of tomorrow?

AK: They are nurses who have undergone special education in paediatrics beyond a basic qualification in general nursing and who are assigned specifically to provide paediatric nursing care in their areas of work. Over 90 per cent of such nurses are women. They are encouraged to pursue further education to become specialists in their field through continuous professional development programmes locally to increase their knowledge and skills.

HA: Paediatric nurses in Ghana are basically registered general nurses who have gone through the paediatric nursing programme either at the School of Nursing, University of Ghana or at GCNM, which have both partnered with SickKids to train them. There are also a handful of others who trained abroad. These nurses can be found in facilities designed to provide care for children or in areas of multi-purpose facilities where children are seen. While in training at the College, they take a module in leadership, take exercises that groom them to be future leaders with decision making and problem-solving skills.

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