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10 things about PAWAS (Pan African Association of Women Surgeons): Sowing the seeds for surgical advocacy…!

Who are we?

We are a continental group of women surgeons based in Africa with members spanning vast regions from Cape Town to Cairo. Our vision is to form A Pan African Forum for Women in Surgery to interact and support each other and contribute towards improving healthcare in the region. Our mission is to inspire, encourage, and assist women in surgery to achieve their professional and personal goals and to develop a women’s healthcare platform on the African continent

What drives us?

There is an increasing burden of neglected surgical disease in the continent with 143 million additional surgical procedures needed in LMICs each year to save lives and prevent disability. Some of the top causes of premature deaths among women on the African continent are due to maternal related deaths and cancer related deaths. (The current burden of cancer related deaths in developing nations, has now surpassed the total deaths from malaria, HIV and TB combined). Many of these causes are amenable to surgical intervention. In addition, there is still low enrollment and a very high attrition rate, of female residents training in surgical specialties, in most African countries. A platform to link with and exchange information and obtain support & mentorship from other surgeons, regionally and globally, remains critical in helping to address and mitigate the unique challenges faced. Our role lies in supporting and fostering change-makers to make an impact on their communities

What gets us up in the morning?

Our continent is crying out. We imagine a world where we flip the script and take ownership of the challenges in our region and develop regional innovative and practical solutions to improve surgical healthcare, especially among the most undeserved, in our populations!

What do we consider critical?

We believe that any dialogue towards improving health must consider equity, access and take into account empowerment of our women and of our populations at large.A key involvement of PAWAS members is in research around pathways to care, improving health  systems and equity, essential surgery and women’s health .

How do we intend to achieve it?

Our mandate is to have our members act as effective catalysts for positive change  in  their  environment to improve surgical care and  health systems. PAWAS aims to create a platform for surgical pathology and women’s health concerns on the continent to be addressed. We are looking to provide mentorship, leadership  and support for women in surgery, in surg training and those looking to join the profession. These members will in turn, develop and galvanize their communities. Members will use the group and its resources to educate, advocate and empower our women and the greater population. We will also use this forum to network, support each other and to support existing initiatives. We intend to develop and support collaborative projects aimed at improving surgical care. An equally critical task is to develop and foster collaborative research aimed at women’s health concerns and surgical pathology

Any recent activities?

Our recent activities included a networking evening for women in science. This networking evening brought together women surgeons from across Africa and in a collaborative spirit invited other women in science to partner with us as we explored the details  around what one really needs to succeed as a women in surgery and in science. The discussion then focused on how to be an effective mentee and manage your mentor and also how to negotiate effectively. Our second activity was a round table discussion designed to bring together surgeons and other stake holders interested in developing collaborative research around surgical pathology and women’s health. This successful meeting produced resolutions with a frame work for definite research focus priorities and efforts for the next 5 years. The platform for research mentorship was warmly welcomed.

Where do you see yourselves in the next few years?

We look to PAWAS as a community of trust and practice to galvanize continental change. Through strategic partnerships and collaborations we intend to ensure that we build and retain capacity, and that our members are at the front-line of  ensuring that the surgical dialogue is introduced to the table of all health system providers.Through our initiatives around innovations we hope to develop safer, more robust techniques of delivering safe, timely surgery on our continent.

How can one engage?

We are interested in developing a global dialogue around these critical issues and invite  all individuals and groups with a similar vision to partner with us. Input and support for our e-mentorship platforms and activities for our research initiatives is key.

Any thing else?

We are dreamers! (we are not too sure what gave it away?) …..but a dream is always a great place  to start! A shared dream with sisters and friends is definitely a journey worth undertaking.

Parting thoughts?

PAWAS is a movement. It is the realization that each person in their own way can effect change and through a wider community of practice create positive change in their environment.  It is our hope that through these and the other efforts on the continent  our women and greater populations can finally have a global voice. Join us in sharing this dialogue. For more information visit our website; www.africanwomensurgeons.org , follow us on twitter @PAWAsurgeon and engage on linkedIn.