MRCG at LSHTM commemorates #IWD2022 and Women’s History Month

MRCG at LSHTM commemorates #IWD2022 and Women’s History Month

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8th March every year, globally. In many parts of the world, the month of March is also recognised as Women’s History Month, with initiatives to recognise, honour, and celebrate the contributions of women around the world.

The MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM has commemorated IWD every year, shining a light on the incredible women who continue to drive the Unit’s work towards attaining its vision. This year, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team in collaboration with the Wellbeing Committee and the Communications team launched a series of activities for the commemorations.

On 8th March 2022, the Unit convened a virtual seminar, focusing on one of themes for this year’s IWD: Break The Bias. More than 200 employees across all sites joined the event, which was moderated by Marie P Gomez, and featured discussions on women and leadership; women’s health and wellbeing; and striking a healthy work-life balance.

Professor Beate Kampmann, Theme Leader for Vaccines & Immunity at the MRCG at LSHTM spoke on her leadership experiences, especially in often male-dominated spaces. She said, “This is about equality, diversity, and inclusion. Despite the disadvantages women are faced with, the world of finance is dominated by women. For example, they are at the helm of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization, and the European Central Bank with a record of five female Ministers of Finance in G20 countries. However, there is still a long way to go, and it requires partnership.”

Awa Fofana, Project Officer for Capital Projects in the Unit spoke on the significance of striking a work-life balance especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is no specific prescription that fits everyone in achieving a perfect work-life balance. You may have to play with what time scale feels more relevant to you.  However, it is good to set boundaries, as this will help you to be more productive.” She added that women need some “downtime” to refresh mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Dr Marie Louise Gomez, a Clinician in the Unit, led discussions on women’s health and wellbeing, sharing useful tips for regular screening, adopting healthy diets, and incorporating regular exercises in daily activities.

Female staff in the Unit had an opportunity to apply these tips during the Women’s Workout Day on 12th March 2022, the second in the series of commemorative activities.

The day started with a walk from the Unit’s Fajara campus to the Cape Point beach, where staff participated in simple exercises led by two female fitness instructors.

Unit Director Professor Umberto D’Alessandro said, “The Unit values everyone regardless of their sex, race, career experience, and education. This activity is in line with our policies to ensure a healthy environment with equal opportunities for all, particularly women. The Unit has a vision to be a centre of excellence in research, and women have an integral role to play in realising that vision.”

Elizabeth Stanley Batchilly is the Head of Governance and Support Services, and also leads the Unit’s EDI department. She highlighted the significance of the workout saying, “The Women’s Workout Day is more focused around bringing the women in the Unit together, getting them more aware of their wellness, and how little changes in their eating habits, exercising, and living heathier could really impact their lives and make them more productive not only at work but in their professional lives.”

Marie P Gomez, a Scientific Officer and one of the organisers for the Workout Day expressed delight at the turnout for the workout saying, “I am truly grateful that the Unit is promoting gender equality and empowering the female staff. My workplace has become a place of fun for me, knowing that the Management has our back as women. The support we have in this year’s International Women’s Day manifests that the Unit is aware of our challenges, and they are doing their best to support us in our physical, mental, financial, and environmental wellbeing.”

The Workout Day is also part of the wider EDI and Wellbeing programme to promote physical, mental, and environmental health among the Unit’s staff. It also encouraged female staff to make use of the Unit’s existing provision of free gym memberships for all employees.

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