Ladies brunch promotes women working in global health

A community engagement organisation in the UK hosted a virtual brunch to celebrate women of colour and to discuss issues that are affecting the world globally.

Founded by Public Health Specialist Dorcas Gwata, Global Health Dorcas(GHD) was set up to help address important health issues in Africa, including promoting wider discussions about health policies and practices that support health systems.

The online event tackled topics that included gender inequalities and wellbeing, as well as issues surrounding mental health, particularly during one of the biggest pandemics of the century.

Mental Health Practitioner and event organiser,Grace Musasari, said that one key focus of Global Health Dorcas, is to keep the conversation going about mental health issues within Africa, including through art and music.

“GHD focuses on promoting art and using it as a way of empowering people who are based in Africa. There are poets, artists and singers - people who have these incredible talents and who are instrumental in, not only using their gifts, but who play a major role in promoting mental health and important discussions about gender, health and climate change using art.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Approximately 1 billion people are said to be living with a mental disorder. With the recent epidemic and lockdown measures that were imposed, billions of people around the world have been affected, which has continued to have a huge impact on people’s mental health.

With the disruption in health services since March, countries around the world have had to find innovative ways to provide mental health care, and initiatives to strengthen psychosocial support as a way of supporting the public health agenda.

GHD, in collaboration with partners, have been working on addressing issues around mental health, climate change and poverty, particularly in Zimbabwe, where the lives of breadwinners, in some cases, have changed considerably as a result of the pandemic.

The organisation has recently set up the Gogo (grandmother) Project, to support vulnerable communities during the pandemic, by providing basic food and hygiene supplies, books and toys for children, and mental health support.

The Gogo Project started as a result of Covid-19 and has supported 50 grandmothers and the children they support, as well as other struggling families. Prior to the lockdown, many elderly women had already been living hand to mouth - a majority, living in overcrowded conditions which exposed them to health and social challenges that made it difficult to maintain basic hygiene.

Tafadzwa Kadye, who is supporting the Gogo Project, said: “We initially distributed groceries and essentials to grandmothers and their families during lockdown, with the first distribution in May. The last distribution specifically had items for children, including books and toys. We have also been providing mental health awareness to those we have been providing groceries to.

“We have also branched out to youth-led families where the head of the family is someone who is still a youth and we are looking to expand this project beyond the current epidemic, with a focus on the Mbare community in Zimbabwe,” she added.

In southern Africa, issues of poor health care systems, lack of funding and robust healthcare policies, along with the insouciance of addressing gender and human rights issues, has revealed the systemic social challenges that need to be addressed.

Ms Kadye said that one of the challenges they have encountered this year, is the issue around gender roles, especially from a Black, Asain and minority ethnic (BAME) standpoint within global health.

“Global Health is still predominantly influenced by white males, which is an issue when it comes to producing culturally appropriate programmes - programmes that don’t tend to listen to our views, take into our account the talent we have, or skills that can truly engage people from different BAME demographics. However, we hope to tackle the issues around representation within global health.”

“Through GHD, we want to continue to promote innovation, discussion about health policies and systems and how these can be improved. We want to start rewriting the narrative and promoting an overarching strategy that addresses the challenges that are faced in Africa at all levels,” she added.

The team is planning more events in the coming months where they hope to keep tackling issues related to public health, mental health, climate change and the roles that women of colour play within the healthcare sector both locally and internationally.

The GHD team are also currently raising £2,000 to help support more vulnerable grandmothers and orphans in Mbare.