Women face gender disparities and barriers as students or working in male dominated professions. Medicine is no different, especially in the African culture where a female health worker is always referred to as a nurse and a male health worker, even if he is a janitor in the hospital, is ignorantly referred to as a Doctor.
Female Doctors are poorly represented in faculty positions in relation to their numbers in the students’ body and general medical workforce. Yet, theìr performance is equally as good as, and sometimes even better, than their male counterparts. A study conducted by the American Journal of Physicians in 2013 stated that the mortality rates in patients treated by female doctors were relatively lower compared to male doctors. Female doctors deliver patient-focused communications and preventive care and also spend more time with their patients, thereby improving the standards of delivery in healthcare worldwide. Yet, female doctors around the world are paid only 75% and most times less than their counterparts.
The Medical Women’s International Association [MWIA] was founded by and for female Medical Doctors and dentists around the world in 1919. In Sierra Leone, it was founded in 1974. MWIA is the parent organisation of SLMWA and female medical organisations in 54 countries worldwide. While women have been facing gender biases imposed on them by society as medical students or female Doctors, there has been a steady increase in the amount of enrolled female students in the medical school in Sierra Leone. As an organisation, the focus of SLMWA is to improve the quality of healthcare delivered to the nation.
Among many achievements, SLMWA participated in the recovery of post-war Sierra Leone by offering free healthcare services to the displaced, health education, free family planning and cancer screening. In 2002, SLMWA’s volunteers participated in forensic training for management of victims of gender-based violence. Today, these female doctors are still training policemen, social workers and members of the judiciary in forensic and psychosocial management of victims of sexual assault. Lately, the association was invited by the First Lady Mrs. Fatima Bio to participate in training for SGBV in line with the “Hands off our Girls” campaign that is aimed at ending rape and child marriage.
SLMWA is also raising awareness of male students through health education in schools, because it is clear that the age of the perpetrators in sexual assaults is as low as three-years-old. The Association is targeting, in particular, male students in primary and secondary schools and informing them about the Sexual Offence Act and the consequences of rape.
The Association is also actively mentoring female medical students and recently graduated female medical doctors to better equip them for the challenges accustomed to being a female in an A-list profession like medicine in Africa.
Being a female Doctor is not just our prefix, it is the superpower for women in the medical field! Viva SLMWA