How Do You Define ‘Diversity’ and ‘Dignity’ in Global Health?

Diversity is closely linked to dignity, and if separated, it can become “a checkbox exercise that fails to shift the dominant power dynamics,” according to Garry Aslanyan in his latest edition of “Global Health Matters.

In a dialogue with Marie Ba, director of the Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit based in Dakar, Senegal, and Tom Wein, director at IDinsight, based in Nairobi, Kenya, Aslanyan discusses how although dignity has a universality to it, it can also be regarded as a capability that if lacking, can result in the best intentions achieving rather unintended and even harmful consequences.

“Strengthening one’s own dignity capability should be a daily intention that all of us in global health pursue,” Aslanyan says. “In doing so, we can hopefully foster more respectful engagement in global health, making everyone feel seen and valued.”

Wein focused his part of the podcast on how to define dignity, emphasising the subjective experience of the person with the least power in any interaction. And said that there are three pathways that can help serve as a framework for dignity: representation, agency and equality.

According to Wein:

  • Representation is about people feeling seen by the institutions that they’re interacting with and seeing themselves represented in those institutions.
  • Agency is about having choices and a meaningful chance to consent for the decisions that are being made about their lives.
  • And equality is about the power inequalities being reduced, and even where they cannot be eliminated, people feeling treated as if they were fundamentally equal, even if those power differentials persist.
The Three Pathways of the Dignity Framework
The Three Pathways of the Dignity Framework

He added that capability and purpose are other key ingredients in dignity.

Ba pointed out that in any situation, accountability and good intentions needs to come from both sides.

“I know we talk a lot about shifting powers, decolonizing global health and really putting the focus on the Global North, but I feel like there’s some work that needs to be done from the Global South first,” she said.

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Image Credits: Tom Wein.

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