Globally, women hold only 7% of government leadership roles, but several women leaders are being lauded for their skillful navigation of the coronavirus pandemic. Countries and regions such as Germany, New Zealand and Taiwan Province of China have shown how women are being held up as examples for how to guide their countries effectively through a public health crisis. They've been praised for their clear explanations, swift actions, trust in science and ability to make difficult decisions with empathy and compassion. As a consequence, frequently, they have succeeded in minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on their countries. From policy, programmes, to community and grassroots decision making, women as decision makers and leaders within the pandemic and humanitarian crisis preparedness and response are proving themselves to be the future.

  • Why, therefore, is investing in women as leaders so important in the context of pandemic situations?
  • What have we learnt from Ebola and COVID-19?
  • What are the drivers and barriers to women's active participation in  preparedness and response to pandemic and humanitarian crisis situations?
  • What are the effects of women’s leadership for advancing the rights and equality of other women in the context of pandemic?
  • What is the way forward? How do we learn from our mistakes and shift the balance?

Organised in the format of a panel discussion with an interactive element, this expert briefing, held on 25 June 2020, aimed to disseminate the informed insights of the panelists as well as to engage with the audience through a virtual Q&A session.

Panel (short biographies can be found below)

Moderators: Ms. Catherine White, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming, Division for Peace, UNITAR and Ms. Olga Ambot Inyongo, Gender Capacity Development Specialist at United Nations Volunteers

This online summit is the first step in our ongoing call to action. Next steps will be announced soon - stay tuned!

Panelists and Moderators - Short Biographies

Ms. Amie Batson, Executive Director of WomenLift Health

Ms. Batson is the Executive Director of WomenLift Health at Stanford University. Ms. Batson’s 30-year career in global health includes positions with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and PATH where she most recently served as Chief Strategy Officer and VP of Applied Analytics and Learning. During her three-year appointment with USAID, Ms. Batson served as the senior deputy assistant administrator leading the agency’s engagement in the President’s Global Health Initiative, serving as a member of the GAVI Board , and launching the Child Survival Call to Action to end preventable child deaths. Throughout her career in global health, Ms. Batson has been a leader in innovation and partnership. Her contributions to immunization and vaccine financing at the World Bank resulted in billions of dollars in new funding for global health, the establishment of GAVI and the vaccination of millions of children against polio, pneumonia, diarrhea, and other vaccine-preventable causes of death. Ms. Batson earned a BA in economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Yale University.


Ms. Nanlop Ogbureke, Senior Adviser at West African Health Organization (WAHO)/ECOWAS

Nanlop A. Ogbureke is an international development professional with over 17 years’ local and regional experience working with non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations. She has a Bachelors in Economics and Education and a Master’s Degree in Health Education and Promotion. She currently is the Senior Special Adviser to the Directorate Generale of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), where she brings to bare her wealth of experience in program development and management, organizational strategic planning, capacity building, monitoring, evaluation, accountability, research and learning as well as partnership management. Since joining WAHO, she has been involved in strengthening the institutions capacity to deliver on its mandate as a facilitator and enabler for sustainable socioeconomic and health development outcomes across the ECOWAS region and more recently, is actively involved in the West Africa regional COVID-19 response planning and execution.


Dr. Zoe Marks, PHD, Public Policy Lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School  

Dr. Zoe Marks is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her research and teaching interests focus on the intersections of conflict and political violence; race, gender and inequality; peacebuilding; and African politics.

Dr. Marks holds a DPhil in Politics and MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford, and a BA in Government and African American Studies from Georgetown University. Prior to joining the Kennedy School, she was a Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer (tenured) at the University of Edinburgh, where she directed the master’s program in African Studies and was Director of the University's Global Development Academy. She has previously worked for UN and non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia, France, Sierra Leone, South Africa, the UK, and the US.


Ms. Olga Ambot Inyongo, Gender Capacity Development Specialist at United Nations Volunteers

Olga Ambot Inyongo is an international development professional with over 13 years’ experience working with non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations both in Europe and Africa. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree  in Politic Sciences (International Relations) and a Master’s Degree in  Development Studies. Over the years, she has gathered extensive field experience in gender equality, gender social norms and girls and women empowerment across a number of countries in Africa.

She is currently working as a Gender Capacity Development Specialist at the UN Volunteers  Programme Headquarters in Bonn, where she focuses on the capacity strengthening in Gender Equality of UNV personnel and volunteers.


Ms. Catherine White, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming, Division for Peace, UNITAR

Catherine White is the focal point for Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming within the Division for Peace of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). Catherine is a gender expert with extensive experience and a demonstrated history of working in academia, policy and international affairs on gender related issues with institutions such as the Europaeum, UNESCO and HM Government. She is a founder and director of Kusini Productions, a platform dedicated to creating opportunities, changing the narrative and championing the voices of black women and girls. She holds a Master's Degree with a High Distinction in Women's Studies from the University of Oxford and double First Class Honours degree from the University of Warwick.

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