FUTURE HEALTH LEADERS 2015 CONFERENCE
“Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders”
19-21 NOVEMBER 2015 SYDNEY AUSTRALIA
Last November I was invited to give speak at the 2015 Future Health Leaders Conference . It was a wonderful event and I particularly want to thank Shannon Nott for the invitation to speak.
My keynote speech was THE POWER OF MOVEMENTS – A GLOBAL MOVEMENT OF FUTURE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS about the potential, individually and collectively to lead a strong health worker movement to change the world.
Jane Sloane on Women’s Health at 2015 Future Health Leaders National Conference
I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of country, the Gadigal peoples of the Eora nation and to acknowledge the land on which we stand today and to pay my respects to elders past and present. I also want to say what a great privilege it is to be here today at the University where I studied and also because I was present for the creation of Future Health Leaders.
So it’s really wonderful to be invited back here. I particularly want to thank Shannon Nott for the invitation to speak. What I’m speaking to you about today is about your potential, individually and collectively to lead a strong health worker movement to change the world.
For me in the last 30 years of human rights work I’ve been guided by a sentiment that was so eloquently captured by the late Kath Walker who later adopted her tribal name Oodgeroo of the tribe Noonuccal. when she said, “as I’ve traveled the world I’ve often thought that one could judge society by the way it treats its minorities.
Where a minority’s been forced to live in squalor, I’ve seen a squalid society. Where a minority has been riddled with disease, I’ve seen a sick society. Where a minority has been without hope, I’ve seen a nation without hope.”
You have the power to come together as a strong health worker movement and change the frame and then change the world. You have the power to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which holds true the right of every person on this earth to have access to health care to have access to health services. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights has most recently been affirmed by the new global sustainable development goals to which Australia is a signatory.
You have the power to be a very strong global health movement for change and to change the world in the way that Margaret Meade said, when she reflected, “Never doubt that a small group of committed thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
For me a tipping point moment of change happened some fifteen years ago when I spent a day with Nelson Mandela.
He was in Sydney at the time to speak at an event called “What Makes a Champion” and I was leading one of the Olympic media centers for the Olympic Games and I was approached about whether I would be prepared to look after Mr. Mandela for a day.
You can imagine. “Would you mind looking after Mr. Mandela?” “Oh well. Ok.” During the course of the day he said to me, “Jane if you really want to make a positive difference in the world you should focus on conflict resolution and citizen led change.”
If you think about the wisdom of those words since all the conflict that’s happened since, and the number of people led movements that have risen up around the world, you just again reflect on what an incredible individual Nelson Mandela was.
From that point really to now, I’ve been on quite a journey and that journey has led me to working with an organization called Global Fund for Women. Global Fund for Women was created some twenty-seven years ago by three women who were concerned about the fact that there wasn’t much money going to support women led organizations in developing countries. The money that was going to support them was largely project based – rather than core funding to be able to sustain the advocacy and the activism. They wanted to change all that.
Since that time we’ve given out about a hundred and twenty million dollars to some 5,000 women’s groups. Just to give you an idea of what that means in practice and the radical idea of trusting women and getting money into the hands of women in order to see transformative change, three of the women who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 were early recipients of funding from Global Fund for Women.
One of those women Leymah Gbowee from Liberia had a dream to end the Liberian Civil War. She used some of the money that we provided to bus hundreds of women into Accra in Ghana where the leaders, the male leaders of the Liberian Civil War were meeting and these women surrounded the compound and Leymah Gbowee grabbed a megaphone and she said, “We women, we’re tired of war, we want peace, we want justice and we are surrounding this compound and we’re not going to let you men out until you make a decision to end the civil war and if you try and come out we are going to bare our breasts.” which is like a hex on men.
Those men stayed in that compound for several days until they finally did make a decision to end the civil war. When they came out, Leymah Gbowee and the other women, they turned their attention to getting the first female president of Liberia elected and that women of course was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
One of our board members at the time, Abbey Disney, who’s the granddaughter of Walt Disney, was so transfixed by this story that she made a film about Leymah Gbowee and the women who surrounded the compound. That film was called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” and at the same time, Tina Brown that legendary publisher in New York approached Leymah Gbowee about writing a book about her experiences.
It was that book and that film that came to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize organizing committee and that was really what helped to get her the recognition that she deserved. That’s what happens when you not only get money into the hands of women’s groups, but when you lift up their voices and their views, so the whole world knows what they’re capable of achieving.
Just one other example of an incredible movement for change, closer to home, a woman called Janet Sape. She was concerned about the fact that in Papua New Guinea some eighty-three percent of women experienced some form of domestic violence. Many of these women in rural and remote parts of the country can’t access their own bank account without getting it their husband’s signature. It means that they are trapped in a cycle of violence and they can’t get out of that, can’t imagine a different life or economic independence.
So Janet had a dream. She had a banking background before she went back to working in her community. She had a dream to create a Pacific women’s bank. We provided her the funding to be able to pursue that dream. She worked with thousands of women; she managed to get some 15,000 signatures from women who really wanted to see this bank happen. The problem was she couldn’t get the banking license from the prime minister.
I’m also on the board of Women’s Funding Network in the United States and we have an award called the Lead Award, which is a global women’s leadership award. Global Fund for women flew Janet Sape to the United States to receive this award. She stood up before hundreds of men and women at a global women’s conference and she said, “You know, we women in Papua New Guinea, we thought we were alone, we thought our problems were our own and what I realized standing before you today is, we have a whole global women’s community, a whole movement that has our back and I can’t tell you what a difference that makes”.
We then beamed the footage of Janet receiving the award back to Papua New Guinea, back to TV stations in the country, to newspapers in the country.
By the time she arrived back in Papua New Guinea, she was a rock star. She was on the front page of the papers, she was the lead story in the TV’s news and so sometime after she arrived back, the prime minister invited her to his residence and he signed over that banking licence to her.
Now some two years later she has over 30,000 women who have signed up as members of that bank. That’s what happens when you not only get money into the hands of a group that wants to lead a strong movement for change but you also lift up their voices and their views.
That’s what’s really important about the way that we work. We don’t just invest in individual people, in individual leaders; we don’t even invest in individual groups. We invest in strong social movements, believing that’s the best way to be able to change the world.
We take our cue from an activist scholar called Srilatha Batliwala who defined a social movement as an organized set of people interested in making a change in their situation by pursuing a common political agenda through collective action. That common political agenda is really critical in terms of the level of change you’re able to achieve.
Why are social movements important? Research has shown that broad-based social movements are one of the most effective mechanisms to create and to sustain long-term social transformation.
For example, social movements have been pivotal in the adoption of progressive policies, in ensuring policy implementation, in changing a whole political process in changing gender norms.
One example of this, you’ll remember the woman in India who was raped. That horrific rape on a bus and the global outrage that resulted from that and the fact that the Indian government then, less than two months later, passed new laws to give new protection to women and girls in terms of sexual violence and domestic violence.
Those laws were only made possible by the years of work by women social movements, women’s groups that were writing policies, drafting legislation, working together to create the kind of environment that could ensure that when this political tipping point moment occurred, everything was ready and able, to be able to enact the change into law. All of that work, of investing in movements for change is vitally important for when those tipping point moments occur.
What does a strong social movement look like? One example of that is the movement for Climate Justice. Here a health worker movement has a pivotal role to play with the intersection of climate justice.
For example, the World Health Organization has predicted that in the years ahead in Papua New Guinea alone, it’s likely to face a 95% exposure to Malaria. You can imagine the level of disease and dislocation that will follow in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific countries that are on our doorstep. We’ll see a lot more climate change refugees as a result of rising sea levels and all of the other factors that play a part with climate change.
We’ve already seen that in the Carteret Islands, with members of the population moving to Bougainville. We’re likely to see a whole lot more in the time ahead. You, as a health worker movement, are really going to be at the front line of response.
It’s also really important to pay attention to the gender dimensions of climate change, of health worker response.
For example during the Asian tsunami you may not know this, for every man and boy who died, three women and girls died.
Often for cultural reasons such as women not feeling that they could leave their homes because they didn’t have their husband’s permission or they didn’t feel that they were covered up enough or because they didn’t know how to swim.
Paying attention to those factors, paying attention to what’s playing out in the world with climate change is really critical and connecting with that movement is really vital as well.
To that point, the key components of a strong movement include that connectivity with other movements. It includes having a strong leadership pipeline and diverse leadership so that you’re actually reflecting the diverse perspectives within a movement.
It requires a strong grassroots base and it requires a strong organizing structure. It requires the use of multiple strategies which includes convenings such as this, capacity building, outreach, surveys, research, advocacy, (and) the use of social media. It requires a collective political agenda. An agenda that has a focus on shifting power as much as shifting resources and it requires strong alliances not just with established movements but also with emerging movements.
One of those emerging movements is the movement to end hyper-masculinity and this image you see here is from a film that some of you might have seen. It’s a film that was created by a US filmmaker called Jennifer Siebel Newsom called The ‘Mask You Live In’.
She conducted interviews with boys and young men in the United States asking questions such as, “What does it mean to be a man, what do you think about when you’re told to man up, what does masculinity mean to you in your life?”
It’s really an absolutely incredible film. I’d love to see a similar film made in Australia, interviews with Australian boys and Australian young men. It would be so interesting to see the differences and the similarities in the responses received.
A couple of months ago I was in Uganda visiting a group that we’d funded about three years earlier. This group was led by a woman who was really concerned about the high number of girl kidnappings, the high rate of child marriage, the high rate of violence against women within the villages where she lived. She started a campaign.
She started going out and talking to male chiefs, talking to police chiefs, talking to elders within the villages, talking to families about imagining a different way of life.
A different way of life where men could drop their focus on violence could actually imagine the deep healing that needed to occur within these villages. She was soon joined by a young male teacher who was really distressed by the fact that his mother was being beaten up every day by his father, that his sister had been disappeared some two years earlier and he also wanted to see a big change in the villages in the community.
Well. I was arriving three years later after they’d been doing this work for some time. I was present for the testimony that a lot of male chiefs stood up and spoke to me about.
One older man said to me, “You know I used to see sex like a cup of tea that I could have at any time. That I could have sex with any young woman, with any girl and I’d even had sex with my daughter-in-law to test the dowry we’d provided, to see whether it was actually worthwhile, and that was my way of life. I realized that it was doing as much damage to me as it was the women in my community.”
Man after man stood up and talked about the changes that they’d made in their own lives and now being mentors to other boys and young men in their communities.
These men, as well as the women in the community, started talking to me about the difference that this had made. That they’d now created their own cooperative dairy, they created their own cooperative coffee collective, that they created a system to be able to transport women with high-risk pregnancies to the nearest villages.
Now every girl with going to school, that the kidnappings that occurred with many children on the way to school had ceased and every boy had made their own compact to not be violent.
They said, “We now want to lead a strong movement across the rest of Uganda. We want more funding because we’ve seen the healing that has occurred in this community.
We’ve seen the healing that occurs when we address hyper masculinity. We now believe that we can engage communities across the rest of Uganda and create the deep level of healing that’s needed to be able to transform our communities and transform the society in which we live.”
You also have a phenomenally powerful role to play in one of the most challenging issues of our time that we’re seeing playing out now and that is the mass migration that’s occurring across Europe. It’s occurring across many other parts of the world because of the heightened level of war and conflict that’s occurring.
Mass migration needs a global health system. I want to share with you what I’ve experienced in several of the Syrian refugee camps where I’ve been in Lebanon in recent weeks; if you can imagine some 25,000 to 37,000 people crammed into a space of less than a kilometre.
These people are living in places where there are live electrical wires just a couple of feet above me and every couple of weeks someone else gets electrocuted from these electric wires, where any drinking water has to be brought into the camps in order for people to be able to drink, where the Lebanese government has banned some seventy occupations so it means that people in these camps have to resort to the most menial kind of work, working with sewerage, working in plumbing, where the women who are pregnant have no access to health care, where many of them are giving birth to children, to babies with deformities and because they have no access to health treatment these babies are being medicated and really left in a vegetative state at the moment, where the level of violence is at an all time high and where the women particularly Syrian women have just normalized the violence.
Some of them said to me, “We think it’s better that our husbands hit us, beat us up, rather than hitting others, rather than them beating up others”, where children are encouraged to scream so that they’re not grabbed and taken away from the camps and sold off to some of the Gulf men in Gulf communities. This is something that’s not normal for Syrian children, they’re not normally taught to scream so they’ve had to change their behaviour, to be able to scream when any man touches them.
Where the women’s groups that we’re supporting have been working with Syrian women to really understand that they have rights, that they have the right not be violated in their community and also again working with men so that they can deal with the level of trauma that they’re facing and understand what’s driving them to be violent every day.
One of the young boys I spoke with in the community who was also a victim of domestic violence. I asked him. “What would you like to be when you grow up?” And he said to me, “I’d like to be a pilot so I can fly away from all of this”.
You know these stories are just absolutely heartbreaking of what’s happening in these camps. These people have the right to a different life. They have the right to basic health care, to be able to support them, to be able to imagine a different life in the time ahead. Because if we don’t support these people we’re going to not only deny them their basic human rights, were going to be able to, I guess lead them to a situation that none of them want to be able to see, which is being led into the arms of armed groups, not just ISIS, but other armed groups.
They want to take the first ticket out of there, to be able to get themselves out of this situation because of the level of poverty, the level of disease, the level of despair in these camps is something that no one should ever, ever have to experience.
The problem is, this is just the beginning. What I experienced and witnessed is just the beginning of a great tide of humanity that is pouring into these camps at the moment. You have the power to come together as a global health worker movement and advocate for change, advocate for the right of these people to be able to assume the need and the access to basic health care.
Because health care is a human right, health care is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and you have the power to be able to change the situation, you have the power to change the world. In this respect technology is going to play a massively important role; the power of a mobile phone to be able to change the situation for an individual and a community, the ability of a phone to be able to determine and detect a high-risk pregnancy and for a woman to be able to get the health care that she needs, so that her baby is saved. The power of a phone to be able to support girls and women who are in high areas of conflict, such as happened in Haiti, where women devised a 24 hour hotline using cell phones so the girls and young women who were in danger could immediately use their cell phones to be able to get to safety and to identify where they could get help if they’d been raped or abused.
When I spent time with Syrian and Iraqi women activists a few weeks ago in Turkey, they said to me that one of the most important things that would help them in organizing an underground network to keep girls and women safe from ISIS, was a safe digital network, so that they could identify where women were at risk, where they could set up safe shelters, where they could dismantle, where they needed to be able to get out of a space quickly. So the power of technology to be able to keep girls and women safe, to keep boys and men safe and to be able to provide the services that are needed to be able to drive a strong health workers movement.
How we use our power is really going to determine our world. How you use your power and the choices we make in the time ahead. How you use your decision-making and how you make a commitment to a strong global health worker movement is really going to shape our world for the time ahead.
You have the power here today to be able to change the world. Please join me in this strong, strong vision to be able to change not only the experiences that I’ve seen in the Syrian refugee camps but the experiences of every individual in the world.
You have the power to drive a strong global health worker movement.
You have the power to change the world.
I invite you to step up and assume that challenge.
Thank you very much.
Transcript by Jools Thatcher – Pretentia