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ISLAMABAD: The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has given a call to women all over the world to support the candidacy of Dr Sania Nishtar for the director general of World Health Organisation (WHO).

Letters written by the commission will be sent across the world through the Foreign Office to get maximum votes.

Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumtaz told Dawn that at the first stage she had given a call to the international community and forums.

“I received around 400 endorsements by global health advocates from more than 40 countries after which it was decided to involve the Foreign Office to send letters to different countries to get support,” she said.

In reply to a question, Ms Mumtaz said not only Dr Sania Nishtar, who is contesting for the post, was competent and best possible candidate but there were just a few women at the top level in the United Nations.

“We are also giving a message to the international community that there should be gender balance in the UN and for that women candidates should be supported for different positions,” she said.

A 2016 Credit Suisse Research Institute analysis of over 3,000 companies showed that on a global average just 13.8pc of senior management positions (defined as CEO or reporting to the CEO) were occupied by women. Within the UN system, only 23pc of programmes, funds, specialised agencies or other entities are currently led by women.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), activist and Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has said Dr Sania has a vision and a bold voice. The combination of her experience both globally as well as on the front lines in the health sector makes her a formidable contender for the WHO post.

“But more than that, Sania’s selection to the top will signify that capable women can and will change the way the world operates,” she said.

President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women Dr Musumbi Kanyoro said, “Sania has been a champion for women. Like the many women who have signed onto this declaration, I know that Sania will transform women’s health through the advocacy and reforms that she’ll implement as DG of the WHO.”

The first round for the election was held in January this year in United Nations office in Geneva, and Dr Nishtar was among three candidates who were elected by 34 executive board members of the WHO.

The final round for the selection of the director general will be held in Geneva on May 23.

Dr Nishtar has extensive experience in public healthcare both from within and outside the government. She has done PhD in public health and has served on several United Nations commissions and held advisory positions on different international panels and health policy think-tanks. After the Ebola outbreak of 2014 the world requires a top public health leader to steer the organisation introducing major reforms to enable it to respond to challenges posed by emerging diseases.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017