“Through the Eyes of She” conference organizer Dr. Christine Ngaruiya, was interviewed about the event and its inspiration. The conference took place Oct. 15–16, 2021 and tackled the challenge of gender equality and the empowerment of women on the African continent. It aimed to assess the progress that has been made towards this goal by examining:
(i) how African women’s agency has been shaped by a variety of historical processes,
(ii) the unique health challenges African women face,
(iii) the education of young girls and women,
(iv) women’s entrepreneurship and economic access on the continent, and
(v) gender parity in leadership positions.
The conference hosted keynotes, panels and poster sessions with representation from across the continent, with opportunities for networking and agenda-setting among participants.
Through the Eyes of She: Equity in Health, Education, Business and Leadership for the African Woman in the 21st Century
Ed Hendrickso, a Master of Arts Program in African Studies interviewed Christine Ngaruiya, MD, MSc, DTM&H, who is Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. She is a co-founding member of the Yale Network for Global Non-Communicable Disease and a 2020 WomenLift Health Women Leaders in Global Health Leadership Fellow. She is the Chair of the Organizing Committee for this conference.
First, would you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work?
My name is Christine Ngaruiya, and I’m on faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. I’m an assistant professor with a primary focus on research on the African continent – in Kenya, and my research focuses on chronic noncommunicable diseases in that setting. I’ve lived in the US as an adult, but I was raised in Kenya, in East Africa, where I was exposed early on to disparities across different domains. This went on to influence my focus on disparities in my coursework and my research as I’ve gone on in my academic career. Most recently I’ve honed in more so on gender disparities as far as they pertain to health, but I’ve also become very engaged in thinking through gender equity in other domains, including leadership and the leadership development pipeline, particularly in Africa, but in low and middle income countries in general.
You’ve organized the upcoming conference, “In the Eyes of She: Equity in Health, Education, Business and Leadership for the African Woman in the 21st Century.” What inspired you to put together this event?
Through my academic career, my research partnerships, and my mentorship activities back in my home country of Kenya, I’ve seen so many ways in which gender equity is either not being implemented or, if it is being implemented, not being implemented effectively enough to see a persistent reduction in disparities. That means parity in education for women, research advancement for women – including trainees – and even securing successful publications, grants, and promotion in the field.
And this bothers me; it’s something that I saw growing up and that I continue to experience alongside my peers as an African diasporan woman living in the US. It’s something that is very near and dear to my heart for both personal and professional reasons. If we are not mindful about gender disparity, we’ll continue to have it. We’ll continue to perpetuate it unless we make targeted actions, both system-wide and at the individual level. We hear from the World Economic Forum that it’s going to take more than a hundred years to even reach economic parity for women in the world, which is dire. But I feel strongly that if we all are able to pull our brains and resources together across sectors, as is demonstrated in the conference, then we can continue to help toward closing this gap.
Obviously at Yale, we have a wide variety of experts, projects, and resources across our system that work in Africa or with African partners. I thought the conference would be an opportunity to really help engage those that are already working on the continent at Yale, either by thinking through their own work with a gendered lens, or by introducing those who might be interested in gender equity but have not as yet engaged with it in their work. We also wanted to spotlight some of the amazing work that’s happening on the continent, again, with a gendered lens. Lastly, we wanted to create new networks, new opportunities for partnerships, and new opportunities for education that will hopefully only grow our Yale community.