To mark International Women's Day this month, we're highlighting some of the inspiring women who play a vital role in enabling IHP to carry out its work.

Kimberlin Keller is a trained Electrical Engineer and Licensed Professional Engineer, and prior to joining Johnson & Johnson (J&J), she served four years active duty in the United States Air Force (USAF), as well as US Steel. Since September 2012, Kimberlin has been Senior Manager for Global Community Impact at J&J, and works closely with IHP to coordinate the generous donation of healthcare products and supplies.

 

Why does Johnson & Johnson support the work of IHP?

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been working with IHP for many years. I work within our community impact team, and IHP is one of our key strategic partners in product donation for disaster response, working with excess product we offer in the European market. Both J&J and IHP are involved in the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations (PQMD), and we have recently worked together to roll out an online module for our donation guidelines. We consider all of our product regulated, even the consumer bits, so the rigour of the process that IHP uses to manage our donations is very important to us. IHP is able to come to the table with the knowledge of how to do that properly, and that is really important. We also love how IHP works well with its partners in the field: it has good relationships and does a good job of vetting and making sure partners have the skills and capability to continue with appropriate project management. More recently, J&J and IHP have partnered to create a J&J system for managing product donations, based on their system currently in use.

 

To improve the lives of women in low- and middle-income countries, what do you think needs to happen?

Often, although women are heads of households and left to care for the children, they are not allowed freedom and autonomy to do those jobs and control their own health access. Because they are often not regarded as the ones making the economy grow, women may not be supported by their governments, yet these are the people that families and communities are built on: they provide community healthcare as frontline workers and midwives, but in many cases are not included in those jobs in the formal healthcare system. This means they are further marginalised and their work is further minimised, even though they are the ones taking care of their communities at a holistic level. Women need to be cared for and brought into the system in a formal fashion so that they can continue to raise and educate their children, and build a better community, which then builds the economy and helps the world. Also, there’s still a lot of violence against women, and if girls are not educated they don’t know how to ask for help, and if they don’t get help they can’t always stay at school, so this is a huge pattern that needs to be interrupted.

 

How is J&J helping women?

At J&J, we are very committed to gender equity, especially in healthcare. Our work empowering frontline healthcare workers, including nurses, midwives and community health workers, who are majority women, is also helping to put women at the forefront through the many programs we support from midwifery to supporting women and girls in STEM. For example, I work closely with partners engaged in prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula (birth injuries), one of those very neglected aspects of health that shows the clear disparity [in access to healthcare] for women. There’s the idea of: “Well, these women can’t have babies and they’re just going to die anyway, so why do we even need to worry about them?” That’s how sometimes it feels when you’re talking about women’s issues. We’ve supported the Freedom from Fistula Foundation and worked with a lot of these groups.

 

Why should women be celebrated on International Women’s Day?

Women should be celebrated every day! Let’s be serious, you know. When you look at healthcare, at who drives the care, most of those involved are women, and they need to be brought fully into the picture. Before I came to J&J, I trained and worked as an electrical engineer, and I became used to being the only woman in the field. It’s hard being the only woman and the first woman, trying to build that respect for yourself and other women. But although that was interesting for me back in the 1980s, it’s 2021 now – and we need to be over that. All over the world, women are still struggling to break that barrier. It’s really important that the world acknowledges the role women play in the workplace, in communities, and in families – and not only celebrate them, but also make sure they are empowered and given the opportunities to reach their full potential.

To support our work to improve access to healthcare for women in need around the world, please donate today.

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