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The quest for gender equality and women’s empowerment has long been a pressing global issue. In Ethiopia, the Mesirat program Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Dialogue Forum entitled “Supporting Female Health Professionals to Join the Gig Economy in Ethiopia ” shed light on the challenges faced by women in the healthcare sector and explored ways to create a conducive environment for their entry into the gig economy.

Held at the Radisson Blu Hotel on July 22, 2023, the event brought together representatives of key stakeholders, including legislators, executors, private sector actors, and various associations, to engage in constructive discussions.

The event, organized by one of the Mesirat program consortium members, the Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE), aimed at fostering a conducive environment for women to tap into the burgeoning Ethiopian gig economy.

Mesirat, a collaboration between the Mastercard Foundation and Gebeya Inc. with six other consortium members, is a program that empowers 100 entrepreneurs in Ethiopia with their own gig professional marketplaces (GPMs), who will in turn onboard a minimum of 10,000 gig workers and be supported and connected with work opportunities.

The gig economy has emerged as a thriving and transformative labor market worldwide, offering flexible employment opportunities and economic autonomy. In Ethiopia, this trend is gaining momentum, creating avenues for women to participate actively and meaningfully in the workforce while balancing various personal responsibilities. However, certain barriers especially gender-based ones, have hindered the full potential of female professionals in this sector.

The forum recognized the critical role female health professionals play in the healthcare sector. These women bring a wealth of expertise and compassion, which are essential qualities in providing quality healthcare services. By leveraging the gig economy, female health professionals can reach underserved areas, bridge healthcare gaps, and cater to patients diverse needs.

The heart of the event was a thought-provoking panel discussion that included Bethel Dereje (MD) from Wecare Digital Health, Solomon Desalegn (MD) from Lifeline Addis, Meklit Tamrat (MD) from the Ethiopian Medical Women Association, and Dibabe Bacha representing the Ethiopian Women with Disabilities National Association.

The panel delved into the challenges faced by female health professionals, highlighting the lack of inclusivity and equal opportunities and the role of gig platforms in improving this reality. Discrimination, social norms, and traditional roles have hindered women’s progress in the workforce, especially in healthcare-related gig opportunities.

Another significant challenge highlighted was the issue of obtaining licensing and certification for healthcare professionals, such as nurses. Solomon Desalegn (MD), Co-Founder and CEO of Lifeline Addis, a home-based healthcare services provision company, stressed the importance of enabling healthcare gig service providers engaged in homecare and telehealth services to obtain licenses.

The challenge is more severe for female professionals with disabilities. Some of these challenges include unequal pay, limited job opportunities, accessibility barriers, and a lack of support networks.

Following the panel discussion, a plenary session allowed participants to engage in open dialogue, exchange ideas, and propose recommendations. The diverse audience consisted of Members of Parliament (MPs), the Minister of Women & Social Affairs, the State Minister of Labor & Skills, and various associations contributed valuable insights.

The collaboration between the private sector, represented by various healthcare and gig economy companies and governmental agencies, showcased the commitment to foster women’s economic empowerment. Through the forum, attendees explored opportunities for policy dialogue mechanisms that can create a conducive environment for women in the gig economy.

MPs present at the forum appreciated the start of the Mesirat project as a pioneering initiative in creating gig worker matching platforms, an instrument to respond to the unemployment problem that the country currently faces. The Parliamentarians have given their full assurance to support the project.

During the engagement, Nigusu Tilahun, State Minister, Ministry of Labor and Skills, highlighted the gig economy as a key focus area of the Ministry.

Furthermore, the State Minister emphasized the significance of inclusivity as a key pillar in the government’s “Plan of Action for Job Creation” strategy, underscoring its paramount importance within the Ethiopian government’s job creation agenda.

The forum stands as a milestone in the ongoing efforts to empower women in the healthcare sector. By acknowledging their contributions and addressing gender-based challenges, the forum demonstrated the potential for a more inclusive and diverse gig economy. Through skill development, supportive networks, and regulatory change, female health professionals can be better equipped to harness the opportunities presented by the gig economy and drive positive change in Ethiopia’s healthcare landscape.

As attendees left the Radisson Blu Hotel, they carried with them a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to support the advancement of women in the healthcare industry via the gig economy, catalyzing a brighter and more equitable future for Ethiopia.

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