On May 19, Dr. Tedros Adhanom was presented with the Award for Perseverance during the Fourth Global Conference of Women Deliver in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Award for Perseverance, as Jill Sheffield, Founder and Ex-Officio President of Women Deliver introduced, is given to people who advanced the cause of women against many odds and challenges. It is an award that goes to an exceptional leader who has shown unbending commitment for equal opportunity for women. The award was one of only two given during the four-day conference.
In presenting the award, Sheffield said, “We celebrate today Dr. Tedros’ vision and accomplishment recognizing health care as a pillar of economic development. He simply transformed Ethiopia’s health system, to expand access to millions… It’s a model for effective health system reform and governance.” She highlighted that under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, Ethiopia’s contraceptive use jumped from mere 8% to 42% while infant mortality rate fell by two-thirds from 1990 to 2015. The award also came as affirmation to Dr. Tedros’ international leadership in his tenure as board chair of numerous prominent global bodies, including Global Fund, Roll Back Malaria, UNAIDS, and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. From resource mobilization to mapping out strategic intervention areas, he has introduced reforms that helped these global institutions deliver better in expanding access to health services across the globe, she added.
Sheffield praised Dr. Tedros’ bold decision as Minister of Health from 2005 – 2012 to train and deploy 38,000 -which now number 39,000 – female Health Extension Workers to be front-line service providers to women in communities across the country. In his role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheffield noted,
“Dr. Tedros has demonstrated scrupulous diplomatic skills to work to continue to champion global health issues emphasizing the crucial link between access to public health and poverty reduction.”
Standing in front of a full auditorium of thousands of Women Deliver participants, Dr. Tedros said,
“I receive this award on behalf of my colleagues and collaborators who tirelessly work to improve the lives of the girls and women in 30 years of public health and career.”
He added that the award is for the Health Extension Workers, “who are change agents in their community and service” and the three million women volunteers empowered as the Health Development Army, who are “a unique story of culture change, not only health.”
Dr. Tedros concluded,
“Putting women at the centre not only improves the lives of women but also has a ripple effect on their families and the entire community. We must be disruptors of the status quo. We should commit to keep the momentum. I’m ready to go back and do more. We have to continue the struggle every day. A major challenge with women’s health and rights is the mind set, which must be addressed politically as well as technically. Action, even a small one, is important to make change happen. The challenge ahead of us is big and what we have done is small. Let us all push hard for better future to girls and women.”
Disclaimer: The views in this article represent only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.
Samuel Addis Alemayehu is the Director of Digital Diplomacy at the Public Diplomacy and Communications Directorate General. He occasionally writes on local and regional issues.