Gender and digitalisation: challenges and opportunities for women in the health sector (Burundi)


On 13 September 2022, in Bujumbura, the information session "Burundian women at the service of HealthTech in Burundi" was held. This event was organised in the framework of the EU co-funded project implemented by Enabel on Resilience to COVID-19 through Digitalisation (RESICODI).
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Hosted by the Association Burundaise d'Informatique Médicale (ABIM), a civil society organisation specialising in medical informatics, the evening aimed to raise awareness among women of the importance of integrating new technologies, particularly in the health sector. On this occasion, the various stakeholders (Ministry of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS, academic institutions, technical and financial partners, civil society, private sector) were also sensitized to take into account the gender aspect, particularly the inclusion of women, in the field of medical informatics. 

"Development partners, including Enabel, have funded several initiatives in the field of medical informatics [...]. What part do women play in this drive for digital gold? How can women, vectors of development, be better equipped for a better health service through digitisation?" asked Joel Ngba Nyanding (Enabel Portfolio Manager) who represented the Resident Representative of Enabel Burundi at the event.

The Director General of Planning representing the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS (MSPLS) thanked all development partners, including Enabel, who are committed to supporting the computerisation of the health sector in Burundi.  "We are sure that this is a very costly area which makes some partners reluctant to support this sector, but Enabel is the main partner which has been committed to supporting the computerisation of the health sector for several years. The MSPLS is also committed to promoting women's initiatives because a good part of the departments of this ministry are run by women (including the Minister)," mentioned the Director General of Planning at the MSPLS, Dr Pierre Minani.

During the event, a panel of four Burundian women who have succeeded in achieving success in medical informatics, despite cultural barriers and prejudices, spoke about why it is more difficult for some women to be part of the country's digital transformation process. The panel was made up of profiles from various sectors:

- Dr Evelyne Ndabaniwe, academic sector

- Ms Alice IRAKOZE and Ms Sandrine KAZE, private sector and field actors in digitalization projects

- Ms Spès-Caritas NDAYISHIMIYE, management of digitalisation projects in the health sector (Enabel)

- Dr Olivier MUSONI (Ministry of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS)

They pointed out, among other things, the many challenges to be overcome, such as family constraints linked to the role of mother and/or wife, stereotypes or the lack of understanding of a sector that is predominantly male. However, they also wanted to convey a positive message of hope to women and girls for the future, as through their insight and determination, they managed to achieve their goals by removing the cultural prejudices and barriers they faced.

"Women can excel in the field of information and communication technologies, you just have to dare", was the conclusion drawn by the panel.