Saturday, July 06, 2013

Ministries of health in Africa are ministries of diseases, says Dr Specioza Kazibwe, Former Vice President of Uganda

Dr Specioza Kazibwe, an Ugandan Surgeon and politician, recently described ministries of health in Africa as ministries of diseases. She made this statement during the #GlobalPower Women Network Africa High Level Meeting that took place in Abuja, Nigeria, last week.

The UNAIDS supported event, which was themed, "Accelerating the implementation of the global and regional commitments for Women and Girls, Gender Equality and HIV/AIDS in Africa; and the adoption of post-2015 priorities," had in attendance Presidents, Ministers, female leaders, policy makers, advocates and other stakeholders in the civil society and business sector.

In accelerating strategies on how to improve women and girls' health, we need to better engage better engage policy markers and address the condition of health system in Africa, Mrs Kazibwe said. In her opinion, there are no health systems in Africa.

"We have ministries of health but they are not ministries of health. They are ministries of diseases. What they are doing is (to talk to the issues of) building hospitals and clinics, almost beckoning our people to fall sick. We should be talking about health and health is made in the home.  That is where we should go for personal emancipation, economic emancipation, physical emancipation so that we are able to address the issue of promotion and prevention…"

Dr Kazibwe said promotion and prevention does not need money. She highlighted her experience in fostering health issues in Uganda. She also noted that leaders' unwillingness to build on foundation of initiatives limits continuity and sustainability of intervention programmes.

To ensure the implementation of strategies to improve the lives of women and girls, Kazibwe says policy makers and stakeholders should move things forward by addressing the issues of identity, policy, use of technology and next level of engagement.

On Identity, Dr Kazibwe says it is important for African women to know who they are. It is very important to have a clear sense of self-awareness and appreciation for the African culture to be able to move things forward. Know who you are, she says.

And she practised what she preached when she spent the first couple of minutes of her presentation talking about herself- her identity.

Dr Kazibwe served as vice president of Uganda between 1994 and 2003. She is the first woman in Africa to be appointed at an executive position of vice president. She has been in politics for the past 26 years serving at both local and national level- 3 times vice president of Uganda.

Looking at the issue of policies, Dr Kazibwe buttressed the need for women leaders and CSOs to do more research that can influence policy makers.  She commended Mrs. Hana Oye Lithur, the Minister of Gender, Ghana, for sharing a well researched presentation she made earlier.

On political empowerment, the surgeon cum politician says political empowerment or women participant in politics is not about numbers of women in cabinet or the numbers of women in parliament.

"I can attest to that because I have been there for many years," she said.

Kazibwe said from her experience, some women in politics are reluctant to be associated with issues that concern women and girls. "Among those many women, there are those that think they are too good to be associated with the women's cause," she said.

Dr Kazibwe is optimistic that things can change. She suggested that those women who "ostracize" themselves from women issues should be engaged and synthesized because many of them have never been to women's forum before. When they begin to understand these issues firsthand, they'll be willing to get involved.

The politician did not miss out in reminding everyone on the importance of embracing technology to foster positive change.

"We are in a world where technology is doing a lot…sometimes when we speak, we forget that world has changed… we should use technology more…" She also advocated for more women to use the technology that has been proven to be of benefit to all.

The former Uganda Vice President wrapped up her presentation with a call for more action, echoing the words of Joyce Bada, the President of Malawi.

The next level of engagement is at the community level. We have talked enough, Dr Kazibwe said.

Watch the Video:

Also published by

The Reporter
Jennifer Ehidiamen is a 2013 IRP New Media Fellow for International Reporting Project (IRP). She is reporting on issues of global health and development in Nigeria. More info:

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