Q&A with Akhona Tshangela, Southern Africa Director

Akhona Tshangela, Southern Africa Director

Get to know more about Akhona Tshangela, Southern Africa Region Director, WomenLift Health in this engaging Q&A session

Welcome to WomenLift Health! What excites you the most about your new role as Director for the Southern Africa region at WomenLift Health?

I’m thrilled to join WomenLift Health as the Director for the Southern Africa region. What excites me the most is the opportunity to empower women leaders in health and increase their representation in leadership positions. I look forward to collaborating with diverse stakeholders, leading initiatives like the Leadership Journey, and championing diversity and inclusion to bring about meaningful change.I look forward as the Director at WomenLift Health to leveraging my skills and experience to champion diversity and inclusion, address systemic barriers, and advocate for meaningful change that benefits not only women in the healthcare sector but also the broader community.

What is that one thing that inspired you to apply for the position?

One thing that inspired me to apply for the position of Director for the Southern Africa region at WomenLift Health is the organisation’s unwavering commitment and investment to empowering women at mid and senior career levels to ensure they reach their truest potential. This aligns perfectly with my own values and passion for fostering diversity and inclusion at all levels for the best solutions to inform policy-decision making. I am inspired by the opportunity to lead initiatives that create a more equitable and inclusive environment for women in healthcare, ultimately making a positive impact on the lives of individuals in Southern Africa.

Could you share some insights on the existing gaps in women’s leadership within the healthcare sector in the Southern Africa region? 

Women in the Southern Africa healthcare sector face significant barriers to leadership positions, including underrepresentation in top roles despite being the majority workforce. Additionally, they encounter a gender pay gap and struggle to balance demanding roles with family responsibilities due to lack of supportive policies. Addressing these gaps is crucial for creating a more equitable and inclusive sector that benefits from diverse perspectives and improves healthcare outcomes.

Following up on the above questions, how do you envision the new WomenLift Health Hub in the Southern Africa region will make an impact in advancing women’s leadership in healthcare?

The new WomenLift Health Hub in the Southern Africa region has the potential to make a significant impact in advancing women’s leadership in healthcare through several strategic initiatives. Through the Leadership Journey, the hub will support implementation of tailored or contextualised leadership development projects to equip women with the necessary skills and knowledge to advance their careers into healthcare leadership roles. Facilitating mentorship and coaching opportunities to support aspiring women leaders in navigating career challenges and unlocking their full potential.The hub will conduct research, such as the stakeholders analysis, to identify barriers to women’s advancement in healthcare leadership roles and using data-driven insights to inform targeted interventions.

Your background includes significant contributions to the African Union, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, particularly in the areas policy development and health diplomacy. How do you plan to leverage this experience in your role at WomenLift Health?

By leveraging my background in policy development and health diplomacy, I aim to drive sustainable change, foster diversity and inclusion, and empower women leaders in the healthcare sector through innovative and impactful strategies at WomenLift Health. Drawing on my experience in health diplomacy, I intend to foster strong partnerships with key stakeholders, governments, and organizations to drive gender equality initiatives and amplify the voices of women in healthcare leadership. I will implement capacity-building programs that empower women leaders in the healthcare sector, utilizing strategies and best practices developed during my time at the Africa CDC. Additionally, I will apply my experience in strategic planning to develop and execute effective initiatives that advance gender equity and inclusion within WomenLift Health’s programs and operations.

What inspires your commitment to promoting gender equity and empowering women leaders in the global health sector? 

I am inspired by my core fundamental belief that diversity and inclusion are not just ethical imperatives, but also essential drivers of innovation, sustainability, and progress in any field, ultimately leading to a better community.

And finally, outside of your professional responsibilities, what activities or hobbies do you enjoy that contribute to your well-being and drive your passion?

Traveling and immersing myself in different cultures not only broadens my understanding of diverse perspectives but also reinforces the importance of inclusivity and respect for all individuals. Outdoor activities like hiking and spending time in nature allow me to recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance, essential for sustaining my passions for advocating gender equality and women’s empowerment. Additionally, reading is a cherished hobby that enables me to expand my knowledge, gain new insights, and stay informed about global issues, including those related to gender equality. Through exploring different narratives and understanding others’ experiences, I continue to learn and grow both personally and professionally.