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Celebrating International Women’s Day

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Nurse Raquel Castañeda (right) of Socios En Salud, as PIH is known in Peru, climbs stairs in Carabayllo, Lima, on the way to a home visit with the mother and child she is accompanying. Castañeda has been with PIH for about a year, and said International Women’s Day, for her, is about human rights. “I believe in equality in general because, for men as well as women, we are all equal,” she said. (Photo Courtesy of Socios En Salud)

Partners In Health employs or supports nearly 18,000 staff members in 11 countries around the world. More than 60 percent of those invaluable staffers are women, filling vital roles at all levels of the organization. In honour of International Women’s Day, which is celebrated March 8 and this year has a theme of Each for Equal, inspiring and influential women from several PIH teams shared thoughts on their work, their values, and equality for all.


Viergela Pierre – nurse manager, Zanmi Lasante, Haiti 
Nurse manager Viergela Pierre of Zanmi Lasante, as PIH is known in Haiti, prepares a cancer patient for chemotherapy at University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti. (Photo by Cecille Joan Avila / PIH) Scenes from the oncology clinic at University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti.

Viergela Pierre has worked for seven years for Zanmi Lasante, as PIH is known in Haiti, as a nurse manager in the oncology department at University Hospital in Mirebalais. 

What do you love most about your work?

What I like most about my work is the organization of care, and the holistic approach to care for the patients.

What does equality mean to you?

I believe in equality because the complementary nature of the sexes is essential for development, social cohesion and family well-being.


Dr. Zahirah McNatt – director, Department of Community Health & Social Medicine, University of Global Health Equity, Rwanda
Dr. Zahirah McNatt, director of the Department of Community Health & Social Medicine at the University of Global Health Equity, speaks with colleagues on the campus in northern Rwanda. (Photo courtesy of UGHE)

Dr. Zahirah McNatt is an assistant professor and director of the Department of Community Health & Social Medicine at the University of Global Health Equity, a PIH initiative in northern Rwanda.

What do you love most about your work?

I have spent the majority of my career implementing projects, plans, and initiatives—all aimed at ensuring health systems are high quality and that they meet the needs of the most marginalized. I still do this work today but in my current role, I have the added benefit of student engagement. I love teaching, mentoring, learning and coaching. I am inspired every day by passionate students who believe the world can change and who are carving out their place in the transformation.

What does equality mean to you?

No one person’s life should be considered more valuable than another. When the most marginalized persons in a given society are centred, all other citizens of the globe reap the benefits.


Abibatu “Abi” Gbamkay – driver, PIH-Sierra Leone
Abibatu “Abi” Gbamkay, driver for PIH in Sierra Leone, relaxes for a moment in between trips. (Photo by Maya Brownstein / PIH)​

Abibatu “Abi” Gbamkay has been a driver since April 2019 for PIH in Sierra Leone, where she is the only female member of the 42-person fleet team.

What do you love most about your work?

I love PIH for paying more attention to poor people and contributing greatly to saving lives, most especially among the poor.

What does equality mean to you?

Equality joins us together, despite gender, age, or religion. It teaches us more about social justice and helps the masses to learn how to be just. And equality means solidarity, which brings progress.


Williamena Nuefville – assistant cook, PIH-Liberia

Williamena Nuefville is an assistant cook for PIH-Liberia, at the Harper office in Maryland County. She joined PIH in 2015 during the Ebola outbreak, and provided vital support for the response team. 

Nuefville said she could neither read nor write when she joined PIH, but her interactions with fellow staff motivated her to enroll in evening school, with scholarship support from PIH.

She is now in eighth grade, fully literate, and an active contributor to conversations about social issues with colleagues. 

She hopes to become a youth counsellor in the future, to teach young people how to respect, treasure, and treat each other equally. 

Williamena Nuefville is an assistant cook for PIH in Liberia, where she has been part of the team since 2015. (Photo by Marian Roberts / PIH)

What do you love most about your work?

I am passionate about cooking and see the kitchen as my office, where I can prepare food to feed staff.

I love my job because it gives me the opportunity to cook for the doctors, nurses and staff, so that they can concentrate and attend to their duties and the patients.

This makes me feel inspired, knowing I am also contributing to what PIH stands for and patient care.


Tarlee Sampson Simbo – MDR-TB program coordinator, PIH-Liberia
Tarlee Sampson Simbo of PIH-Liberia, at the TB Annex in Monrovia. (Photo by Marian Roberts / PIH)

Tarlee Sampson Simbo is the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis program coordinator for PIH-Liberia. She’s served in several roles since joining the team in 2016, including community health officer in Grand Gedeh County and senior community officer in Maryland County.

In her current role, she is part of the MDR-TB team supporting Liberia’s Ministry of Health at the national TB referral center, or TB Annex, in the capital, Monrovia. 

Sampson Simbo said she is motivated to work at the TB Annex because she can help patients address their fears and challenges, providing psychosocial support while they undergo extensive treatment regimens.

What do you love most about your work?

One thing I love most about my work is seeing patients who arrive very weak and helpless but, after treatment, leave the facility so strong and healthy, able to reunite with their families and community. It is so fulfilling and heartwarming knowing that when you save one patient, you save a family and a whole community.

What does equality mean to you?

As a health worker, I hold dear the concept of fairness in all social privileges, from health and opportunities to distribution of wealth, and more. This is why I believe in equality that allows more women to take up leadership roles in all sectors. My participation in the 2019 Women Leaders in Global Health Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, has empowered me to speak on issues surrounding discrimination against women. I always stand for changing the status quo, whereby women will be given the opportunity to be educated and given the space to display our own talents.


Tashina Etsitty – finance accounting clerk, COPE, Navajo Nation
Tashina Etsitty in the offices for COPE, on the Navajo Nation. (Photo by Robert Alsburg / COPE)

Tashina Etsitty has been an accounting clerk for 11 months at Community Outreach & Patient Empowerment, or COPE, a partner organization of Partners In Health and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, serving communities in Navajo Nation and beyond.

What do you love most about your work?

What I love most about this job is coming into work, walking into the office and seeing my coworkers’ friendly, welcoming faces.Just seeing their friendly smiles lets me know that today is going to be a good day, and that we are ready to take on whatever the day brings. As a team, we all have the same goal in mind: doing everything we can to ensure that all COPE staff have the support they need to accomplish their goals of reaching out to the communities, to empower them to take control of their lives by providing resources and education.

What does equality mean to you?

I believe in equality because everybody should have the same opportunities in life to succeed at accomplishing their life’s goals.


Raquel Castañeda – nurse, Socios En Salud, Peru 
Raquel Castañeda (right), nurse for Socios En Salud, as PIH is known in Peru, joins a mother and child for a health checkup at their home in Carabayllo, Lima. (Photo courtesy of Socios En Salud)

Nurse Raquel Castañeda has been with PIH for about a year, serving individuals and families in communities including A.H. Torre Blanco, in the Carabayllo district of Peru’s capital, Lima.

What does equality mean to you?

I believe in equality in general because, for men as well as women, we are all equal. 


Pacsy Rodríguez Jesus – nurse, Socios En Salud, Peru
Pacsy Rodríguez Jesus has been a nurse for three years with Socios En Salud, at the El Progreso health center in Carabayllo. (Courtesy of Socios En Salud)

Pacsy Rodríguez Jesus has been a nurse for three years with Socios En Salud, as PIH is known in Peru, at the El Progreso health center in Carabayllo, Lima. 

What do you love most about your work?

What I like about my job is that through distinct projects I’ve been able to get to know a variety of patients and various types of realities. And through them I’ve learned a lot and developed my professional career. What I love is being a nurse.

What does equality mean to you?

It gives us the opportunity, men as well as women, to empower and develop ourselves in the areas we wish.


Palesa Chetane – quality improvement manager, Bo-Mphato Litšebeletsong tsa Bophelo, Lesotho

Palesa Chetane is the quality improvement manager for Bo-Mphato Litšebeletsong tsa Bophelo, as PIH is known in Lesotho. She has worked for PIH since September 2007, and began her work with the inception of the team’s MDR-TB program. She now supports all work related to quality improvement at rural, district and national health facilities supported by PIH across Lesotho. 

What do you love most about your work?

I love my work because quality improvement is a key element that addresses all issues related to health systems, processes and primary health care dimensions.

Palesa Chetane, quality improvement manager for PIH in Lesotho, makes an equality sign to represent this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Each for Equal. (Photo by Mpho Marole / PIH)

It is the primary area of work, and primary platform, that can help all PIHers address issues of social justice and inequality. There is no other way that gaps can be addressed at depth, other than engagement of quality improvement. Unless quality improvement is highly utilized during every platform of health service delivery and administration, we can never attain universal health coverage or reach national and international benchmarks.

What does equality mean to you?

Equality is allowing everyone to enjoy the fundamental human right of respect.


Fabiola Ortiz – supervisor and professional midwife at Casa Materna, Compañeros En Salud, Mexico
Fabiola Ortiz, supervisor, professional midwife and perinatal nursing specialist, at Casa Materna in Jaltenango, Mexico. (Photo by Nina Peskanov / PIH)

Fabiola Ortiz is a supervisor, professional midwife and perinatal nursing specialist at Casa Materna, a maternal facility located at the regional hospital in Jaltenango and supported by Compañeros En Salud, as PIH is known in Mexico. 

Maternal mortality is a serious concern in Mexico’s rural Chiapas region, where most women give birth at home with the assistance of traditional midwives. In recent years, PIH has collaborated with the Ministry of Health to open Casa Materna. The facility is staffed with first-year obstetrics and gynecology nurses, and supervised by professional midwives and doctors. Expectant mothers receive prenatal care and lactation advice, are encouraged to arrive prior to their due date to await labour, and also receive free food and housing throughout their stay.

What do you love most about your work?

What I like the most about my job is feeling the trust from women when they come to us, professional midwives, and we get to watch in a unique way this amazing event called birth. It really fills me up with energy and makes me excited. 

What does equality mean to you?

I believe in equity because as women we can stop injustice, inequality and discrimination. As an indigenous woman, I believe this is a constant fight and these challenges can be even harder for us, but in spite of all of this, there’s always people who believe in you, supporting you. As a health worker, I believe in equity because every patient should be treated the same. Patients are asking for equal attention, and mostly to leave behind gender, religion, race, or sexual preference. 

Article originally posted on pih.org


We’re driven by our unrelenting belief that every person, no matter who they are or where they’re from, deserves the best health care we know how to offer. Join us in fighting to build a more just and equitable world by making a gift today.

Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day by honouring and recognizing the incredible women in your life. Send them a beautiful PIH Canada e-card to let them know how much they inspire you.

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