Oluwakemi Amodu

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Oluwakemi Amodu (29) is a PhD student at Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta (Canada) who expects to graduate in 2021. 

Oluwakemi  is from Nigeria and has worked as a nurse in a mother and child health care clinic in rural Nigeria, where she encountered the critical maternal health conditions of refugee women displaced by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. This dramatic experience led her to conduct deeper research on this issue and focus her thesis on  ‘Advocacy for reproductive rights and health of refugee women displaced by Boko Haram crisis in northern Nigeria’. She also has research experience in reproductive rights and women’s maternal health in Africa for international organizations.

In terms of her career plans, Oluwakemi is aiming to work as a professor at the University of Ibadan in the field of female reproductive rights and advocate for improved access to reproductive healthcare and human rights protection for women displaced by Boko Haram and women in the northern region of Nigeria.

Olukwakemi won first place at the University of Alberta’s 3-Minute Thesis Competition (2016), where she presented the findings of her master’s thesis on “Obstetric Fistula Policy in Nigeria” to a non-specialist audience.

Tegemea  Mwalingo

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Tegemea (31) is from Tanzania and she is currently a PhD student at the Department of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is expected to graduate in 2024. 

Before starting her PhD, Tegemea worked as a nurse in the obstetrics and gynecology department of a Tanzanian public hospital for six years. Her key responsibilities involved delivering individualized health services to women  (specifically to postnatal women who had delivery complications); educating women on family planning; and providing family planning services to the women of reproductive age. Some of her projects have already improved the lot of Tanzanian pregnant woman such as improved privacy at prenatal visits, cleaner clinics and further respectful maternity care. She led a group of trainers in reducing gender-based violence and wrote a proposal for a grant to establish a standardized gender-based violence service delivery center.

Coming from a country where maternal death and child mortality rates are very high and having professional experience in the field of obstetrics and gynecology has led Tegemea to focus on improving maternity health as her PhD thesis. 

In terms of future career goals, Tegemea is planning to become a lecturer and clinical researcher at a Tanzanian University to build an evidence-based information system that will help develop sustainable projects to improve maternal health services.

Tegemea strongly believes that getting access to higher education empowers women. She believes that getting a PhD degree from a top American university will provide her respect and reputation in addition to academic knowledge. This will, in turn, increase her chances of having a positive impact on maternal health policies in Tanzania.

Asha Asokan

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Asha Asokan (38) is pursuing her master’s degree at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and is expected to graduate in 2020. 

Inspired by her father, Asha obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law in 2003 and started her career as an advocate for a corporate law firm. Realizing that corporate life was not a good fit for her, she followed her dream of pursuing a career in the field of Human Rights, she obtained a master’s degree in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law  in India. 

In 2010, Asha  relocated to Sudan and then later to South Sudan where she worked with the UN and INGO on civilian, women’s, refugee and child protection issues. She was actively involved in the release and reintegration of almost 600 child soldiers from both government forces and rebel groups. She also supported the creation of Women’s Protection Teams, which later participated in the South Sudan Peace Process in Addis Ababa. 

During her peace-building and conflict resolution work in South Sudan, one of the major challenges and gaps that Asha saw was the exclusion of women from peace-building process, since the male-dominated society didn’t recognize women’s roles in peace building. This revelation has led her to focus her thesis on the participation of women in the peace process and decision making in conflict countries.

After  graduation, Asha is aiming to have a career with the United Nations or another international organization. She is determined to support communities and nations for the inclusion of women and youth in peace processes and nation's decision-making processes, in tune with UN Security Council Resolutions.

Elizabeth Onyenefu Obekpa


Elizabeth Onyenefu is a 32 year-old Nigerian woman studying for a PhD degree at the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Texas-Houston.

Elizabeth became a pharmacist at the age of 23 and developed an interest in Sexual and Reproductive Health Education and decided to study public health in a developed country. She enrolled in the Public Health master’s program at the University of Leeds (UK) since this program focuses on promoting gender equality; improving health outcomes for women and children; and addressing health disparities in low and middle-income countries. 

Following graduation, Elizabeth worked with Caritas Nigeria, a non-profit organization that offers services for the poor, as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and served as the Activity Manager for its Adolescent HIV Care and Treatment Program. While working there, she realized that there is a huge need to prevent HIV negative women and adolescents from HIV/STIs and unplanned pregnancies. 

She decided to pursue a doctorate degree in public health, believing that a PhD will help her successfully develop and implement reproductive health evidence-based interventions to improve the sexual and reproductive health of Nigerian women and girls, through education, skills-building, and changing socio-cultural norms and gender roles.

For her PhD thesis, Elizabeth aims to culturally adapt the ‘It’s Your Game… Keep It Real (IYG)’ program in Nigeria to prevent teen pregnancies and HIV/STI in middle school youth, specifically to adolescent girls and to assess the usability and feasibility of the adapted intervention.

Elizabeth expects to graduate in 2022 and upon completion of her studies,  plans to return to her former place of work, Caritas Nigeria, which is interested in promoting adolescent sexual and reproductive health across Nigeria. She hopes to lead the establishment of an Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit there in partnership with the Ministries of Health and Education to implement the adapted  IYG program.

Miryam Nacimento

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Miryam (34), who is from Peru, is pursuing a PhD degree at the Department of Cultural Anthropology at City University of New York. 

Miryam grew up in Lima, and has always feel herself personally connected to the Amazon. She was touched by this region’s social problems--high poverty levels, environmental degradation, and entrenchment of illegal economies. In trying to understand and confront these realities, she decided to study Political Science. After graduating with honors, she worked in the Ministries of Women and Social Development, where she engaged with Tikunas and Yaguas indigenous communities. 

Miryam received a full scholarship from the European Union and studied both in the Netherlands and Spain for her Master’s degree where she critically approached development interventions in the Global South and was introduced to feminist ecological perspectives 

Miryam’s dissertation title is ‘Between biodiversity loss and life proliferation:  Tikunas and Yaguas ecological relationalities in the Peruvian Amazon.’. Her research enquires into the dynamics of biodiversity in the Peruvian Amazon in the context of the penetration of illegal and extractive industries. In particular, she will explore the ways in which biodiversity is affected by the agrarian practices of coca cultivation carried out by Tikunas and Yaguas in the region of Loreto.

Miryam expects to graduate in 2022 and upon her graduation, she is planning to return to Peru, become a Professor in Anthropology and an intellectual force to influence state and national governments by expressing the indigenous voice. She aims to promote the creation of interdisciplinary spaces for the study of environmental problems. She specifically wants to give a voice to indigenous women and youth in managing their environment.