Claudia Shilumani was a guest speaker on a panel titled “Amplifying Voices from the South” at a Gates Foundation meeting that brought together Gates-funded implementing partners from South Africa and Gates Africa teams.
She spoke about critically thinking about whose voices the global health sector is not hearing and what it will take for them to be heard. It is not enough to have South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia or Kenya in the room, and she made a case for smaller, even more resource-constrained countries to be included.
Claudia referred to a recent study tour by the South African Government and their partners to Malawi, when they visited Health Center by Phone to learn lessons that would improve the COVID-19 hotline in South Africa, that learning can be both ways. Malawi always looked up to South Africa as a big brother and as a source of lessons, but that one time, South Africa was ready to learn from Malawi, and that allowed Malawi to shine.
Inspired by a leadership coaching session she, Emily Bancroft, Carla Blauvelt and Tapiwa Mukwashi had with board member Simon Susman back in November 2022, Claudia concluded by listing three things that need to happen in global health. First, the global health space must create opportunities for those missing voices to be heard, and she cited the Lancet Journal as leading the way by rejecting publications from Africa that do not acknowledge African authors. Second, the dominant voices from the Global North, as well as prominent researchers within Africa should take a step back and/or be willing to share the stage with emerging voices. Finally, those missing voices should be able to step up, and not just fill the space, but excel at it.
Her inputs resonated with the meeting participants, and her points were referenced by subsequent speakers at least six times during the two-day meeting.