International Women’s Day 2024 Message of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti

Dear colleagues, partners, and friends, 
It’s always a great pleasure to be with you to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Reflecting on this year’s theme brought back memories of my initiatives investing in
women—especially young women.
The 2024 theme, “Invest in women: Accelerate Progress,” highlights the importance of
gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and their rights to healthier lives.
It’s a powerful development tool.
In the WHO African Region, this has been our focus.
It cuts across our programmes, projects, or activities. 
We’ve worked with regional partners and civil society stakeholders to understand the
socioeconomic, systemic, and political barriers that negatively impact gender
equality in access to healthcare. 
Some of our flagship initiatives include: 

  • The Women’s Leadership Program, as part of the WHO African Region’s
    Transformation Agenda; 
  • The WHO African Region Women in Leadership Masterclass: Power Up Your
    Executive Presence; 
  • And the Africa Women Health Champions initiative, implemented in
    collaboration with the United Nations Volunteers programme. 
    On 28 August 2022, we onboarded our 100 th “Champion.”

I would like to thank the United Nations Volunteers program, country partners, and all
those who have contributed to the success of this initiative.
Today marks its fourth anniversary.
It has helped attract young African women aged 22 to 35 who are groomed, mentored,
coached, and supported to grow to full potential for the future of our Organization.
It has given the young “Champions” the opportunity to contribute to our work of
improving people’s health and well-being while promoting gender equality and
Besides, the Women’s Leadership Program, part of the WHO African Region
Transformation Agenda, tailored to the needs of female staff in the workplace, has
empowered and equipped women; it has given them the necessary tools for leadership
positions in the Organization. 
Since 2020, 79 female senior staff from our Country Offices and the Regional Office
have benefited from the programme. 
We’ve provided career-growth activities, including coaching, mentoring, and personal
leadership assessment through the AFRO Women in Leadership Masterclass: Power Up
Your Executive. 
Female leaders are supported in their goals to enhance their professional influence and
impact as leaders in the health sector.
In the last few years, we have strengthened country teams’ capacity to effectively
integrate gender, equity, and human rights into health programmes. 
Over 80% of our Member States in the African Region are integrating gender, equity,
and human rights considerations at varying gender-responsive scales. 
All this has led to a marked improvement in the health and well-being of women and
From 2000 to 2020, the life expectancy of African women increased from 54 to 67

The maternal mortality ratio decreased by 33% (from 788 to 531 maternal deaths per
100 000 live births). 
The proportion of women at reproductive age who are satisfied with modern family
planning methods increased from 47% to 56.5% in 2020. 
Despite these improvements, we still have disparities at the national and sub-national
I encourage all stakeholders to continue working towards achieving universal access to
sexual and reproductive health and rights services.
I am pleased that our partners and stakeholders cherish our work in this area. They are
investing in advancing gender, equity, and human rights integration in our work as a
region. The recent funding from the Canadian government, BMGF, German BMG, and
USAID exemplifies this.
Dear colleagues, partners, and friends,
There are still many challenges to address, but they are not insurmountable.
Priority funding is waning for many women’s organizations and civil society partners. 
We are seeing a global rise of anti-rights and anti-gender movements coupled with
multiple and protracted crises. 
It is more important than ever that we stand firm to champion the rights of every
woman and girl child by investing more to accelerate progress. 
We will continue pushing – and working for – the gender agenda in health care, stand
firm on our achievements, and create a world where:

  • Women are equal partners with men in all aspects of healthcare
  • Women are entrusted with leadership positions based on their performance
  • Women live without discrimination, harassment, and violence. 

I thank you all for your continued support and look forward to harnessing and
disseminating these achievements, as we create a world we are proud to hand down to
our children and grandchildren.
Happy 2024 International Women’s Day to all!