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Multilinguism and Coincidence

Paris and Francophone Africa: Bonjour!  GBCHealth convened a European member engagement meeting in Paris the week of June 20th 2011.  The main focus for the member meetings was for us (GBCHealth) to identify private sector engagement priorities and capabilities for collaboration.  By the way, many of the companies attending are aligned well for inclusion into the Healthy Women, Health Economies (HWHE) impact initiative, which is the primary focus of my global health fellowship.  I attended these meetings in Paris and presented information on specific HWHE programs and campaigns to this convened group.

Most people are unaware (including me until a few weeks ago) that aside from English, the next most spoken world language by country count is French with 60 countries.  However when you look at the total amount of actual people (not just countries) that speak a particular language in the world, the top three languages in order are Chinese (all dialects including Mandarin), Spanish and English.  French is an important language for Francophone Africa and related French speaking developing countries that are in need of assistance.  Programs that include appropriate consideration for cultural and language needs are key in creating a connection with people to help achieve impact toward millennium development goals and therefore improving global health.  Also, I noticed that a majority of global health related non-government organizations (NGOs), the majority of US Peace Corps Volunteers and almost anyone I have met working for the UN appears to know and speak French at a much higher prevalence than I would have normally expected.  I have come full circle to appreciate the relevance and importance of knowing French in these settings and the critical importance it plays from a socio-cultural standpoint.  We currently have two versions of our male engagement toolkit, one in French and one in English, which was timely for this meeting. Ironically on the plane ride over to Paris, I was fortunate enough to sit next to a woman who worked in Gender Equality from United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization as they are headquartered in Paris (yes she knew French and 3 other languages).  We had a great discussion about the UNESCO launch of the Global Partnership for Education of Girls and Women and a related panel for Empowerment and Gender Equality.  I learned that UNESCO was focusing on similar pathways for women and girls health improvements but approaching it differently (UNESCO focusing on science and technology due to new Haifa Declaration in early June 2011).  Since these are two important pillars (Education and Empowerment) of my current GHF project for Healthy Women Healthy Economies, our discussion was most interesting, especially learning from her perspectives.  The conversation also helped to alleviate the long wait on the airport tarmac in addition to an 8+ hour flight ahead.  Aside from being able to capture this different perspective into my presentations and discussions with companies while in Paris, I also learned some tips on how to best use the Paris rail/metro system J. Bonsoir et au revoir, (aka. “Good Night and Goodbye!” in French) Todd  To improve your global health knowledge and awareness… please check out the acronyms and web links below: VIH/SIDA = HIV/AIDS culturally translated acronym (used in French, Spanish and a few other languages) MOH = Ministry of Health (for most African governments, South Africa’s MOH site is linked here)

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