Africa: WomenLift Health Appoints Akhona Tshangela as Southern Africa Region Director

The Southern African Regional Hub will serve Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

WomenLift Health has appointed Akhona Tshangela as the Director for the Southern Africa region, marking a significant step as the organization embarks on establishing its presence in the region. With over 15 years of extensive experience in public health, Ms. Tshangela brings a wealth of expertise and unique perspective to WomenLift Health’s programs and strategic initiatives.

“We are delighted to welcome Akhona to the WomenLift Health family. Her exceptional track record and dedication to advancing public health, coupled with her commitment to gender equality, make her the ideal Director to lead our efforts in Southern Africa.”, said Amie Batson, President, WomenLift Health.

Underrepresentation of women leaders in the health ecosystem  [AT1] continues to result in the exclusion of talented and highly skilled professionals who possess strong leadership qualities and are suitable for decision-making positions.

“We’ve had great success with implementing our Signature Leadership Journey in East Africa, India, and North America, with a current cohort of 200 women and 230 alumnae women this year. We are excited on the prospects of establishing and continuing this work within the Southern Africa context,” added Amie.

In the Southern Africa region, like other countries in Africa, women’s leadership, including in the health ecosystem, has been hindered by repressive policies, restrictive cultural norms and practices, and entrenched patriarchy. Ms. Tshangela’s leadership will drive strategic initiatives under the WomenLift Health Signature Leadership Journey, aiming to expand the influence and opportunities for talented women in global health in the region, thereby addressing critical gaps and promoting gender equity at all levels of leadership. She will be critical towards fostering transformative leadership in the region’s healthcare sector, where women have historically been underrepresented in senior leadership positions.

“As the region calls for economic empowerment of women and gender equality, the role of the Director for the Southern Africa Womenlift Health Hub would be paramount in advancing the region’s commitment to empowering women leaders and ensuring inclusive and equitable healthcare services for all.   Ms. Tshangela’s leadership will play a crucial role in driving positive change and fostering inclusivity.” Prof. Olive Shisana

An Africa Gender Index score conducted in about 50 African countries, including those in the Southern Africa region, revealed that in both the private and public sectors, senior decision-making remains substantially in the hands of men. The score showed marked differences between the number of men and women in senior and representational positions. The score for the representation and empowerment dimension is 21.3%, showing a major gender gap exists.

The gender gap for managers and professionals is 41.4%, while the gender gap for parliamentary representation is about 25.3%, and 22.9% for top managers in firms. The report further reiterates that including women leaders in decision-making tables and positions will accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.

“The African region boasts a wealth of talented women fully capable of taking on senior roles in global health leadership. I firmly believe that women belong in all spaces in the health sector where decisions are being made, considering that they are the majority of the workforce. I eagerly anticipate making a positive contribution to advancing WomenLift Health’s mission and collaborating with stakeholders in Southern Africa and beyond to address the strategic gender gap and propel meaningful change in the healthcare sector.” said  Akhona Tshangela

Ms. Tshangela, a trained field epidemiologist, has held pivotal roles in public health, including policy development, program implementation, data management and health diplomacy having worked at the African Union. Her recent position as Africa CDC Program Coordinator for Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) highlights her leadership in the field. Notably, her contributions to the COVID-19 response, such as co-chairing technical working group and leading knowledge management platforms, underscore her impact on public health.

“Strong and transformative leadership is recognized as essential for building resilient and responsive health systems. I am confident that Ms. Tshangela’s leadership in the Southern Africa region is pivotal in advancing WomenLift Health’s unwavering commitment to elevating women leaders in health.” said Dr. Samukeliso Dube, Executive Director at FP2030 and Global Advisory Board Member at WomenLift Health.

Encompassing an extensive range of countries, the Southern Africa hub will be pivotal in advancing WomenLift Health’s mission. The Director will be key in achieving impactful outcomes across the region, including Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.