A day to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM.

Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Tackling some of the greatest challenges of the  U.N. Agenda for Sustainable Development – from improving health to combating climate change — will rely on harnessing all talent. That means getting more women working in these fields. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent and creativity.

As the world continues to battle the newer Covid-19 pandemic we must not forget those fighting to stop an older, slower and deadly pandemic – tuberculosis (TB). From doctors to nurses, epidemiologists to lab technicians, women have been playing a critical role in the fight against the deadliest infectious disease across the world.

APOPO is dedicated to promoting women in all areas of our work, including the vital science that supports our life-saving rat detection research. Many skilled scientists and engineers have contributed to APOPO’s endeavor since it began as a research project more than 20 years ago. Today, our activities are driven by a number of very talented women.

Through its TB-detection work, APOPO promotes the right of women to access and use basic health services, receive a timely treatment and take up their multiple roles and responsibilities. In Tanzania, our active cooperation with local community-based organizations like MKUTA, allows us to have a better understanding of the needs of women and to set-up a patient-centred tracking and support system. 

Meet Sidonia Muhambe. 

Before joining APOPO, Sidona studied Applied Biology at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, Mozambique and got her bachelor’s degree. She aIways loved biology growing up because she saw so many possibilities for getting a job in interesting areas from the environment, research, medicine, or working with animals. 

“Biology is unique because of the complexity of living things and how they interact with each other and the environment. Initially when I joined APOPO I worked with the HeroRATs as a rat handler training them every day. I really enjoyed getting to know the rats better and seeing how quickly they found additional patients that the clinics had been unable to diagnose.”

“Then I started getting interested in the data that is produced from the rat sessions and their performance. I found I have a knack for data collection and a head for numbers so I retrained within APOPO and became a Data Manager. I love that APOPO supports my interests in this way. My job involves entering data from the samples, rats and clinics and entering it into the computer. I began generating sheets for the rat training sessions, analyzing data and entering everything into our database. Including the confirmation test results from the lab through molecular testing  (using our GeneXpert machine) to confirm that the the rats found real new patients. It’s fascinating!”   

“My advice for young girls wanting to enter the STEM field is: to not be afraid to get uncomfortable. Often, you may find opportunities that you think you can’t do, but the truth is that you really can. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable and try things you’ve never done before, because you never know, it might turn out that you actually like it.” says Sidonia.

Join APOPO today in celebrating – may we see many more women and girls inspired to pursue STEM-related fields in higher education and careers in the near future!

APOPO is most grateful for the generous support from partners and donors for our TB projects.