International Women’s Day: Reflections from 5 Women Leaders

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This International Women’s Day, we asked a few inspiring women health leaders from the United States, Bangladesh, Gaza, Colombia, and Lebanon to reflect on the impact women have on the humanitarian space, the women in their life who have inspired them, and how they plan to celebrate the important goal of gender equality. Read the reflections of 5 incredible women leaders.


Dr. Nahreen Ahmed, clinical care physician and MedGlobal Board Member

What impact do you see women having on the health and humanitarian space?
I believe the impact women have in the humanitarian space is multifaceted and primarily exercised through representation. Representation is impactful in two very distinct ways: the first is to help amplify the voices of women in resource-limited countries by providing a safe space for them. The maternal-fetal death rate remains unacceptably high and women continue to be plagued by several lesser vocalized health issues due to stimaga – for instance menstrual hygiene and health, reproductive health and family planning, cervical cancer, breast cancer, and postpartum depression to name a few. When women in resource-limited settings or conflict zones see other women working with them I believe it allows for more engagement, transparency, and trust. The second way in which representation can be impactful is when women see other women in leadership positions; we live in a world that is often male-dominated, it is an incredible example to see women leaders in the humanitarian field. It shows the possibilities that exist and the hope for the advancement of women’s rights worldwide. 

What women have inspired you in your life and work?
There are so many women who have inspired me in my life and work, including of course my own mother, grandmothers, and sisters who have trail blazed across the professions of medicine and education despite so many obstacles. Outside of the strength I draw from the examples of the women in my personal life I look to examples like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who stood up for what she believed in and fought her entire life to remain steady to those ideals. I look to Stacey Abrams, who fought to amplify the voice of the Black community and tirelessly combatted voter suppression across America. I look to Marsha P Johnson in leading the charge for LGBTQ+ rights during the Stonewall Uprising – and so, so many more in the history of humankind. These are the women whose actions declared, “I matter, WE matter, our voices must be heard!”

What do you want to celebrate on International Women’s Day?
I want to recognize the struggles and accomplishments of every woman before me, for we stand on their shoulders. I want to acknowledge that gender and identity are complex, and while we celebrate International Women’s Day we should too celebrate the freedom to identify as ‘she’ or ‘they’. I want to celebrate the way in which we lift each other up, as providing opportunity to women lifts up not just one individual but an entire community!


Dr. Rahana Parvin, Bangladesh Clinic Coordinator

What are some of the humanitarian and health issues you see impacting women?
Women and girls are among the most vulnerable, especially refugees. Early marriage is sadly a very common issue. We are seeing maternal mortality rates increase now. Many women struggle to take care of themselves and their mental health.

What women have inspired you in your life and work?
My mom, Shahina Hasan, has inspired me the most. She is such a wonderful example of how to always share your love with others and find passion in whatever you are doing. She is so strong and has shown me that no matter what happens, you can get through it.

What do you want to celebrate on International Women’s Day?
This International Women’s Day, I want to participate in #ChooseToChallenge to show my support for women around the world on social media. It’s a call-to-action to challenge the status quo by raising awareness against bias, celebrating women’s achievement, and taking action for equality.

Angela Restrepo


Angela Restrepo, Colombia Program Manager

What impact do you see women having on the health and humanitarian space?
Women offer a tender and compassionate approach to humanitarian responses around the world. Even if the setting is dangerous, women strive for protection of the people, the ones that are suffering, the ones that need an extra hand. Women also represent the years of fighting for rights of women and children, and can lead by example. They can help other women to develop all of their potential, by leading NGOs and take more leadership positions to promote equality. I think we are dream makers

What women have inspired you in your life and work?
I came from a family full of women. We are 8 women, and of course my mother, my grandma, and my aunt have all inspired me to grow up professionally and become the women of my dreams. I also felt strongly inspired by Anjalina Sen, who has been the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)’s Refugee Coordinator in Bogotá and highlights the global work she has been doing with refugees from around the world. She is a diplomatic woman who stands out for her ability to carry out humanitarian programs and represent her work to large decision-making rooms. Even if the media is not full with her history, I consider her to be someone who changes the rules, and her work is outstanding. 

What do you want to celebrate on International Women’s Day?
I want to celebrate the years of fighting for being in the place we deserve, and also to celebrate the challenges we’ll still face to help all those women who still have no voice in the world. 


Raja Musleh, Gaza Program Manager

What impact do you see women having on the health and humanitarian space?
Over 40% of the half million humanitarian workers who provide frontline care during emergencies, war, and disaster are women. Women are at the forefront of improving health for conflict and non-conflict affected populations by delivering services, education, capacity building, advocacy, and research. The impact of women during the COVID-19 pandemic is clear all over the world.

What women have inspired you in your life and work?
Empowering women gives families and society hope for the future. I relate my strength and leadership from my mother, she is a strong woman who taught me how to be real and authentic. She always said, you decided to be your own role model, for you and for women around you. Now, I teach my daughter how to be a strong, independent, and educated woman.

What do you want to celebrate on International Women’s Day?
On this day, I will celebrate respecting and believing women.

Tania Baban


Tania Baban, Lebanon Program Manager

What impact do you see women having on the health and humanitarian space?
Throughout time, women have been leaders in improving the health of their families and communities around the world. Unfortunately, often, they continue to face discrimination and have not been given equal opportunity to reach their full potential for promoting global good and wellbeing.

What women have inspired you in your life and work?
For me, this day acts as an opportunity to reflect and admire my mother. Her constant strength and resilience have helped shape me into the woman I am today. Another woman I look up to is the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, the first individual to be awarded two Nobel Prizes, and still today the ONLY individual with two Nobel Prizes in two different scientific categories: Marie Skłodowska Curie. In 1910 she successfully produced radium as a pure metal, which proved the new element’s existence beyond a doubt. She also documented the properties of the radioactive elements and their compounds. Radioactive compounds became important as sources of radiation in both scientific experiments and in the field of medicine, where they are used to treat tumors today. For me she sets the example of perseverance and setting the goal to succeed despite barriers.

What do you want to celebrate on International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day is a celebration on social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women regardless of gender identity. It is a day to acknowledge the progress that women have made towards equality, yet remembering how much more work there is to be done.

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