Improving career opportunities for women in the health workforce

Project description

Title: Employment-oriented support to women in the health sector (EWH)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Liberia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Health
Overall term: 2016 to 2019

Liberia. Laboratory aide in a health centre in South-East Liberia. © GIZ / Viktor Siebert


Investments in a fit-for-purpose productive and motivated health workforce are a key priority for Liberia as the country is recovering from the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and 2015. Between 2010 and 2016, women’s share of health workers increased from 38% to 45%. Therefore, it is essential to consider female health workers’ specific needs in order to improve workforce performance in service delivery. Apart from that, measures that make staying in rural areas more attractive for women are necessary, since difficult and partly unsafe working and living conditions affect them in particular.

Moreover, as a major employer of women in Liberia, the health sector is uniquely positioned to contribute to women’s economic empowerment and thereby social justice and national development. Career choices still tend to follow traditional gender roles: Men are overrepresented in more “technical” (and mostly higher-paying) cadres such as physicians (77%), physician assistants (80%), and medical laboratory technicians (82%), whereas women dominate in the “caring” roles, such as nursing (69%) and midwifery (94%). These gender inequalities are due to educational disparities as well as domestic obligations and social norms that limit women’s career choices and professional development.


Women’s career opportunities in Liberia’s health workforce have improved.


The project supports women in the different stages of their professional development to venture into non-traditional professions and positions.

  • Career guidance for high school students empowers adolescent girls to choose career paths based on their own strengths and according to the demands of the labour market. This also helps them to transcend gender stereotypes. During “girls’ days”, for instance, female students visit medical laboratories and learn how women, too, can excel in this profession.
  • At the level of pre-service education, scholarships enable women to pursue degrees in health professions dominated by men, such as physician assistants. The project also supports training institutions in making student recruitment, study environments and teaching more female-friendly.
  • Targeted leadership development measures and scholarships for advanced studies support the career development of women who are already employed as health professionals, including the promotion of more women into higher-paid management positions.
  • Strengthening the gender-sensitivity in workforce planning, development and management systems in the health sector creates an environment that enables women to go further in their careers.

Apart from national-level support to the Ministries of Health and of Education, the geographical focus of the interventions is on five counties in South-East Liberia, which is the most remote part of the country. In terms of career guidance for young women, the project cooperates with the women’s rights NGO “medica mondiale”.


  • More than 2,100 female secondary school students have participated in career guidance activities and thus learned about different health professions. For the first time, the Ministry of Education has developed a national career guidance policy.
  • Three training institutions for health professionals have carried out gender audits, established gender focal persons and introduced rules and measures to promote gender equality among the staff and estimated 860 students.
  • 55 women have received scholarships for pre-service and further studies, mainly as medical laboratory technicians, physician assistants and nurse anaesthetists.
  • 50 female officers in charge of clinics and health centres have completed a leadership development programme.
  • The Ministry of Health has established an investigation system for cases of sexual harassment at the workplace and trained all human resource professionals in gender-sensitive HR work.

Additional information