My election was unexpected: First female Prez of Rotary Club of Accra

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Two spectacular events took place in quick succession within a short period of four months, and these events have impacted and enhanced the credentials and professional status of Dr Juliette Tuakli, the founder and medical director of CHILDAccra, a research institute.

The first occasion was the rare opportunity Dr Tuakli had to be one of the 70 professionals around the world who were invited to the United States of America (USA) by former USA President George Walker Bush, the founder of the Bush Health Institute, a global health initiative which focuses on saving lives in the developing world, to brainstorm on how to improve the health of people in developing countries.

The Bush initiative spotlights critical issues, brings organisations, businesses, and government agencies together, and work to make existing health systems function efficiently.

Dr Tuakli, who is also a Board Executive of Mercy Ship  International, said at the April 18, 2013 meeting with President Bush, her malaria project attracted some attention.

The second and most significant which sent shock waves among her male colleagues was her election victory and subsequent investiture on July 1, 2013 as the first female President of the Rotary Club of Accra, Anglophone West Africa’s doyen club since 1958.

The Mirror on Tuesday engaged Dr Tuakli, who happened to be the sixth female member to be admitted to the club on June 2, 2003, in a chat to find out how she felt about her new role and status, and this was what she said, “It is a very strong club with strong individuals, high-level and well-informed people. It was a tough election which I polled 65 per cent of the votes.”

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According to Dr Tuakli, most of her male colleagues were not expecting the outcome to be in her favour “and were apprehensive when I got the mandate”.

The Mirror gathered that “the Rotary Club of Accra had over the years failed to maintain a leadership role on the admission of women in Rotary Ghana due to conservative parochialism”.

From 1989, clubs other than the Accra Club began in earnest to admit women. Indeed, from 2000, new clubs started with between 30 and 50 per cent women as charter members.

It took the Accra Rotary Club nine years since 1989 to admit the first two women, Rotarians Sylvia Anie and Elizabeth Joyce Villars, on February 3, 1998. The club has since had 12 female members out of a total of 63, representing 19 per cent.

According to Dr Tuakli, a product of the Navrongo Senior High School, after her election, she has been working to establish and maintain strong links with key members of the club and said it was paying off.

Career and education

Dr Tuakli  had her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Zambia in 1973. She then moved to England to complete her course in medicine  and later got her Master of Public Health degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1979.

Dr Tuakli brings 30 years of paediatric and family medicine experience to health care in Ghana.  

She has been in the Harvard and Boston Medical School faculties, teaching paediatric fellows, residents and medical students.  

She was also Paediatric/Adolescent director of the Children’s Hospital of Boston affiliated community health centre at which she initiated seminal cross-cultural, service-directed operations research (CHILD).

Results from the CHILDAccra research led to the establishment of an acclaimed Community Paediatric Department at the Children’s Hospital of Boston.

As Deputy Director of an international NGO programme in Africa, she supervised national HIV/AIDS programme development in Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda.

In 2004, Dr Tuakli participated in Ghana’s national review of its HIV/AIDS response and development of a successful five-year strategic framework.  

Within UNICEF, her work has helped to develop national child health policies for the governments of the USA, Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya.  

She currently spearheads innovative anti-malaria efforts in West Africa.  Dr Tuakli has been a WHO advisor in tropical disease knowledge management in Africa and has taught an innovative Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported course (Child Health in Africa) at the School of Public Health (Ghana) and the Kofi Annan International Peace Training Centre.

By Vance Azu / The Mirror / Ghana