Women’s Leadership in Planetary Health: 10 reasons to join our new course

By Dr. Nicole de Paula

Are you a woman trying to make the impossible happen? If you are passionate about planetary health knowledge and practice, I am convinced that you share most of my values and commitments.

More than victims, women are drivers of positive change. I did not need to painfully go through a global lockdown to believe in this powerful truth. Ironically, I have never been an explicit gender advocate before. But when you work with international politics, advocating for women quickly becomes a necessity. In an environment where power is everything, I quickly learned some invisible rules. Women do not have the same status as men. Women`s ideas take longer to be adopted and are more quickly doubted. Women suffer from bold and micro-aggressions (including from other women) in their everyday life.

What is happening in Afghanistan is the epitome of historical discriminations. With no women on the streets, healthcare is seriously compromised. Changing long-term prejudices is burdensome and it will take time. Gender inequality arose 8000 years ago and neolithic graves in Spain reveal increasing male dominance!

Founding the Women Leaders for Planetary Health has been a joy and a liberation.

I finally found an inspiring community composed of a lot of women who have had enough. The good thing is that I also found a community of men who are ready to step in to change the game of inequalities. These women and men are smart enough to know that gender equality is a win-win bet. I never believed in advocating for women`s rights by excluding men from this battle.

At the Women Leaders for Planetary Health, we share a common mission: empowering women to accelerate planetary health action through a gender-just lens. Our commitment is to make women more visible, recognizing their achievements and demanding shared leadership positions. Only by influencing decision making, we will be able to change social and cultural norms that still leave women behind.

The COVID-19 pandemic feels endless, especially because of misinformation and acute inequalities across the world.  Differences in power, money, and resources between high-income countries (HIC) and low-and-middle income countries (LMIC) have played a significant role in how COVID-19 continues to impact our lives. The political and economic factors associated with health have allowed the most vulnerable to quickly die alone. These socio-political factors, shaped by a colonized global health system, have meant that LMIC were not treated as equal decision-making partners in the pandemic and the vaccine distribution.

The impacts of the lockdown on women were significantly more severe. From significant rise in domestic violence, to being the first to lose their informal job, women were not only at the frontlines of the COVID-19 response but acting as the backbone of the unvalued caring economy.

Source: UN Secretary-General’s policy brief: The impact of COVID-19 on women

It is concerning to witness how COVID-19 has significantly reinforced and exposed existing social inequities, with disproportionate effects on marginalized groups. Experts show that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line, reversing decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty. This comes at a time that those living in extreme poverty, as well as women and girls in LMIC, are already the most at risk for the catastrophic effects of climate change we are starting to see, thus further disadvantaging them.

These numbers are not surprising. They suggest the power of social determinants of health, understood primarily in terms of inequalities in material and financial resources, and in some cases, place-based deprivation. However, researchers have interestingly showed that “political or economic” factors are less often made explicit by stakeholders in public health when assessing the root causes of inequalities.

The pandemic is the ultimate evidence of how global solidarity is more than altruism. It is urgent to protect us all.

Daily, we are getting access to many new scientific facts and stories that undermines our hope.  However, a pessimistic mindset does not help to change the situation. We need to use our purposeful spirits to empower the larger number of individuals who are ready to think about next steps. That is why we need support to expand projects that tap into women`s leadership skills. We need to fund women`s led businesses. As I wrote elsewhere, gender equality is a smart and cost-effective formula to accelerate sustainable development.

The revolting part of the story is that women who are out to create positive change are running on empty and this cannot continue. If we really want change, we must be energized to our fullest to be effective at what we seek to cause in the world: a new paradigm for leadership at the intersection of health, the environment and gender equality. When we are washed out and exhausted, overworked and over-solicited, we simply cannot have the amazing impact and ripple effect that is possible when we are fueled by our passion, aware of our strengths and respecting our boundaries. To create groundbreaking results, we must flourish in our leadership.

Our new course Women`s Leadership in Planetary Health is designed for women who must make the impossible happen. I see our organization, Women Leaders for Planetary Health, as a hub to boost courage and confidence for women who already know what needs to be done. According to our head coach, Angela Philps, by joining our course, women will:

  1. Step into their leadership power. Literally.
  2. Increase their creativity and as such their capacity to imagine innovative solutions faster.
  3. Tap into their natural abundant resilience rather than stretching themselves to snapping point like rubber bands then bouncing back. 
  4. Increase their confidence and reinforce their self worth, then act on intuition and inner wisdom, rather than waiting for and relying on outside validation to move forward.
  5. Stand with integrity, confidence, and grace, and be unstoppable when confronted with political agendas, conflict, and office politics.
  6. Get their fire, energy, and mojo back – be reconnected with what they stand for, what they believe in and use that energy to achieve their own goals as well as those of their organizations.
  7. Redefine their boundaries to stop over-functioning and over-giving – identifying high value and low value uses of their time and implement this immediately in real time.
  8. Become more effective and productive through learning the art of strategic rest & nourishment. For the elite athlete, rest day is training day. It’s professional and obtains optimum results. Anything else is amateur thinking.
  9. Learn how to increase their results by doing less and being more. 
  10. Identify their own perfect system for holding themselves back and not getting the results they say they want.

Angela is known as being the Queen of Possible. I am happy to partner with her. In sum, we want to accelerate the impact of women reconnecting their leadership styles with the legacy they want to lead. Get in touch if you want to know more.

About the author: Dr. Nicole de Paula is the Founder of the Women Leaders for Planetary Health and an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS-Potsdam) in Germany. She holds a PhD in International Relations from Sciences Po Paris.

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