November 13, 2020

Women Advancing Global Health: IiH/SEAD Innovators Highlight

As the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals shifted into the Sustainable Development Goals, one of the driving efforts that remained a priority was the movement for gender equality. After two years of acknowledging the critical role of women and girls in science and technology, the General Assembly gathered on December 22, 2015 and declared February 11th of each year to be International Women and Girls in Science Day.

Although half of the U.S. population is female and 48% of all jobs go to women, only 24% of STEM jobs are actually held by women. Taking a step back and looking at the global statistics, women accounted for less than a quarter (24.8%) of individuals employed in research and development in 2013.

Today, we highlight some of our female Innovations in Healthcare/ SEAD Innovators as pioneers in their STEM fields. Thanks to the leadership of these inspiring women in their communities and across borders, the healthcare sector is that much closer to achieving affordability, accessibility and quality services and technologies.
Faith Muigai, Chief Medical Officer at Jacaranda Health, comes to us from East Africa, where she uses her nursing, management, and leadership skills to help women and families make positive health decisions. As a 17-year-old, Faith ambitiously took a leap and traveled to the United States to work as a nursing assistant to pay her way through a college education. Using her passion as a guide and knowledge as a tool, she thrived in each opportunity that came her way and rose from nursing assistant, to Master’s Degree in Nursing and Administration graduate, to manager and leader at Johns Hopkins University. Today, Faith stands proudly in Kenya, using her commitment and love for healthcare to bring a better quality of life to low-income women in underserved communities. Jacaranda Health provides comprehensive maternity care at a fraction of the cost of private hospitals in peri-urban Nairobi, Kenya.
Stefanie Weiland is making her mark across Burundi, Uganda, and Eastern DRC as the Executive Director of LifeNet International, a network of 42 clinics that offer basic healthcare services to remote low- and middle-income populations at the last mile. Stefanie specializes in empowering business leaders to make a positive impact and has been key in LifeNet’s expansion and social franchising over the last five years. She holds a BSFS in Science, Technology, and International Affairs from Georgetown University and an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.
Another Innovator, and a recognized leader in menstrual health and hygiene management, is Megan White Mukuria. An Ashoka fellow and Harvard University graduate, Megan is the CEO of ZanaAfrica Group, a Kenyan-based social enterprise that supports adolescent girls to complete their education by providing them with reproductive health education and sanitary pads. Today, Megan and her ZanaAfrica team have won a Wharton Africa Business Forum Business Plan competition and three Gates Foundation grants, but her greatest accomplishment to date – seeing 100 percent of the girls at New Adventure School in Kibera matriculate from seventh to eighth grade for the first time thanks to ZanaAfrica’s work.
Eva Mwai, East Africa Regional Director of North Star Alliance, continues our trend of successful female leaders in the innovator network. North Star Alliance is a non-profit organization that converts shipping containers into repurposed roadside mini clinics to bring primary care and STI centers to mobile populations. Thanks to Eva’s leadership, North Star has expanded beyond Kenya into Tanzania, Uganda and Eastern DRC. Before North Star, Eva was the CEO of the largest private ambulance company in Kenya. Today, she works closely with the North Star team, truck drivers and sex workers, to develop innovative ways to deliver care to the transport community.
At Penda Health, a chain of outpatient medical centers in Kenya, Stephanie Koczela’s leadership shines. As co-founder and CEO of Penda Health, Stephanie is revolutionizing the healthcare industry by offering high quality, low-cost outpatient care that targets women and the provision of sexual and reproductive health services. A specialist in maternal health and microfinance, Stephanie had been living in Kenya since 2006 before she teamed up with Penda’s other co-founder, Nicholas Sowden, that year to launch Penda Health.
Outside of East Africa, the IiH & SEAD innovator network is privileged to have Zubaida Bai, founder and CEO of Ayzh, and Shelly Batra, co-founder and president of Operation ASHA, amongst our cohort of female leaders.

Zubaida Bai began her career with Bachelor’s and MSc degrees in Mechanical Engineering, continuing her education with an MBA in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise Program at Colorado State University. She uses her knowledge and expertise in the STEM field to bring affordable, high quality health products to underserved women and children. Her organization, Ayzh, produces and sells clean birthing kits in India and educates workers on implementation.
Shelly Batra’s role in the STEM field comes from her medical background as a renowned senior obstetrician and gynecologist, advanced laparoscopy surgeon, and Ashoka fellow. Shelly has lectured on global health topics at the University of Chicago, Harvard School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, and more. With her tremendous leadership, Operation ASHA has successfully treated tens of thousands of patients for tuberculosis across the slums of India and Cambodia.

On International Women and Girls in Science Day, we would like to thank these incredible female leaders, and all of our innovators, for creating positive impact in the communities around them. To learn more about all of the Innovations in Healthcare innovators click here.
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Blog originally posted by the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD) here.