Women and Africa, Paramount for New Female Director-General of WHO

Margaret Chan, the newly-elected Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), recently announced an agenda for her term centered around women”s health. Dr. Chan is focused on achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals, which include the promotion of gender equality and female empowerment, as well as improving maternal health.

Chan is also focused on fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa, as it has begun to affect more women and children. According to WHO, in sub-Saharan Africa, women make up almost 60 percent of those infected with HIV and the infection rates among adolescent girls and young women are much higher than those of young males. Chan’s goals reach beyond physical health and aim to empower women to “leverage their resources and their creativity and become change agents” because she believes that women who are empowered “can make changes, not only to themselves but also to their families and their communities.”

Chan previously held the position of director of Health of Hong Kong, where she managed outbreaks of avian influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Her first job in her 30 years of public health service involved taking care of children and pregnant women. In November 2006, she was elected to replace Dr. Lee Jong-wook (who passed away suddenly last year) and will serve until 2012.
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WHO 1/4/07; New York Times 1/5/07; UN News Service 11/10/06

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