UN Volunteers Joelma Pereira and Santa-Mika Ndayiziga are among the 120 Africa Women Health Champions in 38 World Health Organization (WHO) offices in Africa. These women health champions bring the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 3 to many corners of the continent. Through the Africa Women Health Champions initiative (AWHC), UN Volunteers improve people's health and well-being, while promoting gender equality and involving wider participation of youth.
Joelma Pereira is an international UN Volunteer from Guinea Bissau. She is a Communications Officer with UNDP stationed with WHO in Mozambique. She takes pride in being a health champion, and documents key initiatives related to environmental health, climate change, and the misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations. Joelma also oversees partnerships between WHO and different stakeholders in the health and humanitarian sector at WHO Regional Office for Africa.
One of Joelma's major achievements is minimizing the partnership review timeframe from three weeks to only one day. As a result, the Office recorded a three-time increase in the number of partnerships established in 2021 compared to previous years.
The Health Champions have contributed to building the next generation of women health leaders, COVID-19 response and other health emergencies in the region, and strengthening the national health system and the engagement of communities." -- Dr. Mahen Sandrasagren, Director, General Management and Coordination, WHO Africa Regional Office.
Joelma Pereira, international UN Volunteer (left) international UN Volunteer Communications Officer with WHO Mozambique on a field mission to Moma disctrict, Nampula province in Mozambique captures the aftermath of cyclone Gombe in March 2022. @ UNV, 2022.
Santa-Mika Ndayiziga, from Burundi, is an international UN Volunteer External Relations and Partnerships Officer for Resource Mobilization and Reports at the WHO Office in Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo. Like Joelma, Santa-Mika oversees the development of partnerships between WHO and different stakeholders in the health and humanitarian sector, and was also able to streamline the partnership review timeframe from three weeks to one day. The outcome of that was not only a three-time increase in the number of partnerships established in 2021 compared to previous years, but more engagement from national civil society organizations.
Being a UN Volunteer is a humbling experience for me. I feel proud to be a useful resource for my team." -- Santa-Mika Ndayiziga, international UN Volunteer External Relations and Partnerships Officer.
One hundred and twenty women from 36 nationalities were part of the first phase of the Africa Women Health Champions initiative, they came from 25 professional areas and served in 38 countries in Africa. On International Women's Day 8 March 2023, WHO and UNV launch the second phase of this initiative.
Joelma and Santa-Mika make important contributions to break barriers, raise awareness on gender equality, and inspire women to become health leaders in their communities. For they know, this is the only way forward to the sustainable development of Africa.