“We need to better understand the particular health needs of women and one important way to achieve this is to include more female developers and programmers.” QA Dr Josephine Sundqvist, Secretary-General and CEO at LM International, Stockholm, Sweden

Dr Josephine Sundqvist, Secretary-General and CEO at LM International, Stockholm, Sweden

Please tell us a little about yourself and your role as Secretary General and CEO at LM International?

I’m a visionary and value-driven global CEO with a passion to drive change in an unjust world. I grew up in remote hospital compounds as a child in the Eastern part of DRC, in northern Kivu and later spent a great portion of my adult life in Sub-Saharan Africa.

I’m married and a mother of two kids. As a global CEO I give overall strategic global guidance to the Global Management Team (GMT). The GMT oversees the global Secretariat in Stockholm as well as our regional hubs in Nairobi, Dubai and Panama City and our Country offices in Niger, Chad, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, DRC, and Tanzania. In total we operate in 30 countries, and we have about 300 employees.

As Secretary-General I act like a bridge between our secretariat at and our Executive Board of Directors to direct and operationalise strategy. I’m responsible for overseeing the financial health of the organisation and ensuring all programs are executed with excellence and integrity.

I’m actively seeking out and promoting initiatives that improve and maximize efficiency to ensure greater impact for communities and that we make best use of our resources. I work daily to facilitate for transformational leadership, inclusion and a more innovative culture that serves to inspire and motivate all global staff.

In my capacity, I also act as the Ambassador and official spokesperson for the organisation in senior and official external meetings with leading representatives in government, UN agencies, EU, private industry and with development agencies.

What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you and why is it so important?

To me, these concepts are central when building a sound, grounded and value-based organisational and leadership culture. While it’s great that the conversation is growing around these concepts, there just isn’t enough diversity in top leadership, neither in LM nor within global development and humanitarian aid.

Perfect diversity is one thing – the distribution of that diversity is another thing altogether so foremost is about shifting powers and I’m trying here to act as a role module when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling.

Secondly, is about our core values and our organisational culture. What makes people feel included? A crucial matter for us in LM is to open our teams and everyday conversations beyond day-to-day performance and establish an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. It is about making all our employees, trainees, consultants, and volunteers feel that they are treated fairly and respectfully and that they are valued and belong.

To develop and to improve in this field we have started in LM to measure trust, through the Great Place to work Trust index. Thirdly, our actions speak more than our words. So based on the principles of transformational leadership, we find that what leaders say, and do so what will define whether an individual reports feeling included.

So, this really matters for equity and inclusion because the more people feel included, the more they speak up, go the extra mile, and collaborate. Here it’s about shifting social norms and attitude and behavior change.

What I finally can say is that we need to approach these concepts from the view of intersectionality, which means that for example female empowerment cannot be worked on in isolation but is directly related to other central identity markers, manoeuvre space and executive powers. Therefore, the movement of black lives matters, is important also for the empowerment of women in health.

What is your thoughts on the link between healthcare and human rights?

First of all, the right to health is all peoples right to “enjoyment to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. It is an inclusive right that extends beyond healthcare to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to clean water, sanitation, adequate food and nutrition, housing, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information, including on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Secondly, essential health services including SRHR services, should be made accessible to women, youth people and poor and vulnerable groups. Health programmes should therefore monitor the affordability of services and challenge inequalities and discrimination in the system.

Governments must take deliberate actions to challenge stigma and discrimination of certain vulnerable groups. Thirdly, it is also crucial to states everyone’s right to also participation in health planning and promotion and here it is of particular importance that women and vulnerable groups have the possibility to give their input on how to challenge discrimination related to e.g. age, gender, HIV and disability and have influence of the development of the health sector at large.

How can we improve women’s healthcare human rights and gender equality?

We need to ensure that we base all our health programs and interventions on a solid ground, a human right based approach. This includes a consideration on how national health plans and policies benefit women and girls, and how their specific SRHR needs are met.

We also need to consider health data and that we have proper indicators and targets for gender equality health outcomes and impact (e.g., regarding maternity mortality, laws/measures against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. We also must ensure that there are indications, targets and a monitoring system for access to health services for girls and women.

How can digital technologies support women’s healthcare?

Digital transformation is already making huge impact for the promotion of women’s health. When we are striving to further digitalise health, we need to apply a much more gender sensitive approach. We need to better understand the particular health needs of women and one important way to achieve this is to include more female developers and programmers.

What gives me great hope is that with digital technologies we can much better understand the health standards by aggregating health data and making comparison between women and men. Digital technologies can also serve to safe lives and to empower girls through detection of diseases, disabilities, and health deviations at an earlier stage.

The first wave of digital adoption favoured the management of improved services to women and girls. The challenge now is for innovators to address key challenges of health inequalities between men and women and the chronic under-reporting of women’s health issues.

Any final thoughts?

It’s important that we relate all our efforts in this field of work to the global framework of 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Goal 3: To ensure healthy and promote well-being for all at all ages.


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