In celebration of International Day of the Girl, AstraZeneca’s (www.AstraZeneca.com) Africa team has joined the global #GirlsBelongHere campaign, a Plan International initiative, to promote inclusion and draw attention to the obstacles faced by young women in Africa.
As a science-led company, AstraZeneca is passionate about inspiring and advancing the next generation of women and girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). To commemorate the day, AstraZeneca’s senior leaders stepped aside from their roles for the day to give 15 girls from Johannesburg, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Accra and Lagos a unique opportunity to take charge. The participants attended meetings and workshops and shadowed the multinational company’s regional leaders including, amongst others, Barbara Nel, Country President African Cluster, Arpit Bansal, Country Director for Sub Saharan Africa and Taryn Purdon Business Unit Director of Oncology for African Cluster. The Africa Boardroom takeover event also connected girls from across the region to discuss how to overcome biases and obstacles to gender empowerment and inspire them to take the lead.
Colleen Ratseane, a young female Entrepreneur who participated in the Orange Corners Programme in South Africa, shared her career journey with the participants. The day also included visits with key AstraZeneca stakeholders, networking with AstraZeneca team members and participation in team brainstorming workshops.
Barbara Nel, Country President for African Cluster (South Africa, Sub-Sahara and French Speaking Africa) says: “We are strongly committed to supporting and empowering women in leadership positions across our AstraZeneca African Cluster. The Girls Belong Here initiative is part of this commitment, promoting girls’ visibility, driving new opportunities and investing in girls from across Africa to step into the shoes of various leaders in a mass takeover. Connecting across geographical borders the girls have an opportunity to share their perspective on why female representation is important in business and healthcare and what we as business leaders should know about the challenges young leaders face so that we can empower them to overcome these.”
Gender is a key determinant of health, and gender inequality leads to health risks for women and girls. The influence of society, culture or tradition can influence and impact health choices, health-seeking behaviours and health outcomes for women and girls. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing barriers; measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 have forced young women out of school, many of whom may never return to the classroom. Creating education and employment opportunities, like the #GirlsBelongHere takeovers, can lead to positive health outcomes for girls and young women.
Barbara Nel added, “It starts with inspiring young girls to have confidence in themselves, dream big and speak up and in showing them that Girls Belong Here. A big thank you to our partners for joining forces with us across African Cluster to ensure we bring about positive change. Together we can make a difference.”