Impactpool's gender parity awareness campaign continues as we aim to share stories and interviews from international professional women working at some of the most important international organizations in the world. We are delighted to share another Impactpool exclusive, employee spotlight.
Meet Dr Felicitas Rumbidzai Zawaira, Director, Office of the Regional Director, WHO African Region
Dr Felicitas Rumbidzai Zawaira,
Title - Director, Office of the Regional Director, WHO African Region
Nationality - Zimbabwean
Please could you tell us a little about yourself and your professional background?
I am a proud parent of three graduates, a mother-in-law and a very proud grandmother. What kept me focused throughout my life was the desire to give my children the best education and best start in life.
I am a medical doctor by training with a Masters’ degree in Maternal and Child Health from the University of London. I also hold a Diploma in management methods for international health from the University of Boston.
I have worked at clinical, managerial and policy-making levels in my career. I was the Director of Maternal and Child health for 7 years and Principal Medical Director for another two years, coordinating the planning, resourcing and running of the entire preventive and curative services in the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe. I have extensive experience as a WHO Representative in several countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Botswana as well as a Director of several Clusters in the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
When and why did you choose to work for WHO?
I joined WHO in 1998 as I felt that I had given 18 years of service to my country and was ready to become an international civil servant, serving beyond the borders of my country of origin. I started off as a National Professional Officer in Zimbabwe. Thereafter I joined the regional office as an adviser in Women’s health and thereafter being deployed on my first international assignment in Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania.
What do you believe is/are the most important skill(s) needed to work within the international health space?
Work in WHO requires good technical expertise that comes from solid academic training as well as experience working in the field. Excellent interpersonal skills, adaptability to work with people from different countries and cultures, a good dose of humility, accepting that you can’t know everything, being a team player are critical too.
Naturally as one goes up the career ladder, good leadership, management, diplomatic and brokerage skills become very important, especially if one assumes a managerial role.
What according to you, is the most effective way to address gender parity within international organizations?
I believe in catching them young, reaching out to women early on in their careers, even going to tertiary institutions such as medical schools to show what international organizations do and where. Employers also need to do their homework, talking to women to understand why they do not apply.
Once they have been recruited, understanding their challenges to stay in post, difficult duty stations, spousal employment opportunities are issues close to employees’ hearts and need to be addressed.
Do you have a personal habit or trait that has been critical for your success?
Throughout my career, I have believed in being open, firm but fair with whoever I deal with. I also take pride and joy in ensuring that I help people to grow in their careers.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
My parents raised me with the mantra, “Be the best at whatever you are doing.” As I grew up in my career I picked up another one, “Stay relevant, always ensure that you stay on the cutting edge in your technical area of expertise.”
I have also understood why it is important to appreciate everyone I work with and show them that I do. I try my best to listen to other people’s viewpoints before I talk.
Even an interview that will not result in you getting the job, will teach you something.
We know that many of our audience would like to hear some advice on how to pursue a career with WHO, do you have any good tips to share with them?
My advice would be: Get postgraduate training in different fields of health, WHO is not only about Public Health.
Ensure that you have the relevant experience at the country level or international level which will be a strong basis to launch your career.
Scan the adverts on the WHO website.
Keep abreast on health issues across the world.
This article is produced as a part of Impactpool's Gender Parity month-long campaign in March 2021, supported by WHO. Curated to shed light on gender parity in the International Public Sector and empower women with career resources, job opportunities, and employee spotlights and a unique virtual career fair. Register now #genderparity