Africa’s Women’s Day: We hear from MSI leaders

Gender equality   |   31 July 2023   |   4 min read



Banchi Dessalegn, MSI Africa Director

“I lead MSI’s delivery of reproductive healthcare to millions of women and girls across the African continent. And I tell our 4,500-strong team that it’s simple: we’re here to deliver for women.

“Where I grew up in Ethiopia, our lack of access to information and services ruined lives. Someone I knew died by suicide after becoming pregnant because she didn’t know what to do.

“Another girl disappeared from class one day, never to return. We heard rumours that she’d drunk bleach to end her pregnancy. I don’t tell these stories very often—I prefer to focus on positive and empowering stories from my home country—but that sense of inequity started a fire in me that’s still burning today.

“Right now, there are still women and girls across Africa who are denied access to the care they need and forced to resort to unsafe abortion. That’s why MSI Africa is determined to expand reproductive choice, helping women and girls make informed decisions about their bodies and futures on their own terms. And when I look at my team, I know we can achieve this. We share a pride in our continent, a commitment to our people, and a belief that we can overcome any obstacle ahead.”

Pester Siraha, Country Director MSI Zimbabwe

“My career path as a nurse, midwife, and public health specialist eventually led me to join MSI Reproductive Choices back in 2012—and I’ve never looked back.

“The combination of the formal training I received and the informal coaching and support I had from others meant that it didn’t take long for me to take my place at the helm.

“I’m now the Country Director in Zimbabwe, and it’s a great privilege of my life to be in a decision-making position, influencing Zimbabwe’s programme as well as global reproductive healthcare.

In line with our strategic commitments of supporting women’s career development, MSI is now running a Women in Leadership course, which aims to encourage and promote women globally. The first one was held in Zimbabwe in 2020 and now almost every country programme in Africa has participated. I’m proud of the advances we’ve made in female representation in our leadership team and how women’s progress here has been supported by the global MSI network and the Women in Leadership programme. Since being the only woman in the room less than a decade ago, I’m now surrounded by smart, capable women who make up the majority of my senior leadership team.”

Dr Carole Sekimpi, Senior Country Director MSI Uganda

“I recently visited a government hospital in Kampala and met a 19-year-old young woman with twins. Her family had abandoned her getting pregnant outside wedlock. I know that her life, and that of the many other women I saw that day, would have been different if they had reproductive choice.

“We’re working hard to bring that choice to women and girls. Giving women control of their reproductive health is one of the most effective ways we can empower them. By helping women access accurate information and client-centred counselling, we can combat misinformation and stigma.

“I’m most excited about MSI Africa’s work to strengthen the public sector health system so we can build sustainability and lay a foundation for continued access to reproductive healthcare beyond MSI’s intervention.”

MSI Africa consists of 17 countries and 4,500 team members all working towards one goal: to ensure every person on the continent has access to reproductive choice, and life-saving reproductive healthcare. On this Africa’s Women’s Day, we’re proud to celebrate the women leading this work and the women we support to make choices about their health and futures every day. 



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