[A Women’s Month spotlight on empowerment in the healthcare business, courtesy of Roche]
- To pay tribute to the women who marched and fought for empowerment in 1957’s Women’s March, South Africans commemorate Women’s Month in August
- Some inequities still exist – especially in healthcare delivery
- Leading women share insight on how and why they aim to change the narrative
On 9 August 1956, over 20,000 South African women marched to the Union Buildings, the official seat of the South African Government, to protest the extension of Apartheid Pass Laws to women.
To pay tribute to the women who marched and fought for empowerment on that day, South Africans commemorate Women’s Month in August and observe Women’s Day on 9 August annually.
Sixty-seven (67) years on from the Women’s March, South Africa has established itself as a democratic and inclusive society. Although significant progress has been made in the fight against inequality, however, women still remain a vulnerable group.
Amongst many challenges that exist is access to quality healthcare. A WHO (World Health Organization) report states that “a range of adverse socioeconomic pressures including inadequate healthcare prevents African women from realising their full potential.”
Roche Diagnostics has a globally embedded focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) with a keen emphasis on women in leadership. A team of women from Roche shares insight on how they hope to drive change.
Merilynn Steenkamp, General Manager, South Africa and SADC at Roche Diagnostics, comments on the importance of focusing on access to Women’s Health. “Women’s Month serves as a reminder that what we do every day has a greater purpose, and I am proud to be a part of that.”
“Women in Africa are more likely to die from communicable diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, or maternal and perinatal conditions and nutritional deficiencies than women in other regions. And while cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women worldwide, more than 90% of deaths occur in women living in low- and middle-income countries because of limited access to screening and treatment services.
“Diagnostics are a cornerstone of effective healthcare service delivery, driving 70% of all clinical decision making. Despite this, the median availability of diagnostics is only 19% in basic primary care facilities in many low-income and lower-middle-income countries. We are working tirelessly to change those statistics.”
Steenkamp adds, “This milestone prompts public sector policymakers to bolster investment in diagnostics, prioritising it as central to health security and access. And as a private-sector healthcare services company, we aim to pursue public-private partnerships that bring quality diagnostics to more people – even in the most remote areas. This purpose is the reason we go to work every day.”
Deodra Reddy, Ad-interim Head of Legal Compliance and Risk, Diagnostics Africa Network at Roche, adds, “As a woman in South Africa, driving better access to healthcare is extremely close to my heart. I hope to honour the legacy of those courageous women and everyone else who fought for equality in our country by being instrumental in driving change towards equal access to diagnostics and care for more South African patients.”
Precious Nkabinde, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Africa, at Roche Diagnostics, elaborates, “We are committed to raising awareness on the value of early diagnosis in women’s health so women feel empowered to make informed decisions and act early.”
Bobo Mngxali, Head of People and Culture, enthuses, “As women, we lead from the heart – with empathy and understanding. Inspired by the pioneering women that drove us to work towards a greater purpose; when even one woman doesn’t have access to healthcare, we must all stand together and work for change.”
Rim Al Tawil, Finance Manager, Diagnostics South Africa, and SADC, adds, “Seeing first-hand how Roche’s innovations have transformed lives across Africa has been immensely gratifying. It is an honour to be a part of a team that genuinely cares about improving the health and well-being of women and all people across Africa.”
In closing, Steenkamp emphasises the significance of Women’s Month: “We must continue to empower and uplift women, not just during this month but throughout the year. Together, we can drive change, break barriers and create a future where all women have equal opportunities for improved health and more time with loved ones.”