Our Women in Science on International Women's Day


This International Women’s Day we celebrate three women in science who are a part of our Fleming Fund Fellowship Programme.

Temas Ikanofi, Central Public Health Laboratory, Papua New Guinea

Who inspired you in your career?

When I was in secondary school I wanted to be a bank teller or in business, but then I won a scholarship to complete my final school years in Australia. While there, I lived with a host family and my host mother said to me – Temas, you won’t be good in business – you have such a kind heart and are full of patience – I think you should work in a hospital or do something in health. She was right! I didn’t know where I was going to end up then, but I am very happy to be where I am now.

How does your work help your community?

I support evidence-based medicine – without my work, clinicians would only be able to look at a patients’ signs and symptoms without truly knowing some of the causes of illness. Laboratory testing allows doctors to properly diagnose patients.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in your field?

When I first came into laboratory science, it was a very male dominated field, but now it’s the other way around! I think so many women have joined this industry because it’s so satisfying- you are able to test hypotheses and make a difference in the lives of patients.

Zurva Ashraf, National Institute of Health, Pakistan

Who inspired you in your career?

Lots of people have inspired me, like my supervisors and mentors in secondary school and some of my friends. But I think my family and my mother have been my ultimate inspiration. My mother works – she is the only women in our family who works outside the home and she takes responsibility for her job and for the home. Her example was really helpful for me.

How does your work help your community?

Evidence from the World Health Organization and the CDC highlights that we are entering a post antibiotic era and here in Pakistan we need to improve our AMR systems. I work on AMR surveillance, which is so important to be able to preserve drugs for the health of our community.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in your field?

In the past few decades, the role of women in our society has drastically changed. When I was hired, my workplace was 50% women 50% men – being a woman in science is really commendable right now in Pakistan. I started my career when I was young, I had many responsibilities and with time I’ve learned and grown a lot. To young women looking forward to their future careers, I’d say be self-confident and proactive– you’ll have some tough days- but confidence and motivation will help you push through.

Nawroz Afreen, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, Bangladesh

Who inspired you in your career?

When I was young my parents had a lot of goals for me and they really wanted me to become a doctor. So, because of my father, I studied medicine. But later on, I really wanted to get into public health and my colleagues, and my husband were really an inspiration to me.

How does your work help your community?

In my role, I’m responsible for investigating infectious disease outbreaks, conducting bespoke research on epidemics and outbreaks like COVID-19 and strengthening surveillance systems through evaluation and health communication. All these activities help strengthen public health within our community.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in your field?

As a woman in my country we have many responsibilities. I am a mother, I have two daughters and other social commitments. Doing all these things and my job can be difficult and it means I need to be highly motivated. Despite the challenge, I’d encourage other women to come up in their careers and also to pursue studies in public health. One significant contribution from an individual can have a long-standing impact within an industry, so it is better for women to come up.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has designated the UK’s International Reference Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as an FAO Reference Centre for AMR.

The Fleming Fund invest £1m to support a new International Reference Centre for AMR to provide technical assistance and quality assurance in one-health surveillance.

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