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International Women’s Day: Meet 9 women who are tackling COVID-19

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Women around the world are working hard every day to fight the pandemic. From fighting food insecurity in their communities and inventing crucial tools to fight the pandemic, to using their positions of power to demand change, they’re working to make 2022 the year we end the pandemic.

That’s why on this International Women’s Day, we want to introduce you to a few of them. Keep reading to find out!

Nomonde Kweza, or “Mama Nomonde”

In South Africa, Nomonde Kweza, also known as “Mama Nomonde,” is feeding her community during COVID-19. She’s the founder of Ulimo Lwethu Food Garden, an organic urban farm outside of the Ikhaya Loxolo Old Age Home. Kweza used her urban farming skills to feed people and teach others how to do the same. She taught her community how a patch of land outside of their home can yield food for a whole family. She also donated food to the senior home and a local soup kitchen.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa

The World Health Organization has been a driving force in providing the information necessary to fight COVID-19. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti is one woman behind that work. Originally from Botswana, Dr. Moeti is the first elected woman to hold the role of WHO Regional Director for Africa. She’s using her position to fight COVID-19 both across the continent and globally. She’s spoken out on how lessons learned from the HIV crisis can ‌fight COVID-19, and how the WHO is working to support African countries’ response to COVID-19.

Norah Magero, inventor of the Vaccibox

Based in Kenya, Norah Magero has made a huge advancement in getting vaccines to rural areas. The young inventor is the mastermind behind the Vaccibox. The Vaccibox is a solar-powered refrigerator that can transport COVID-19 vaccines by motorbike, small boat, or bicycle. It’s designed to transport vaccines to “off the grid” areas. Her invention is a significant step in tackling the cold-chain storage gap in Kenya and expanding access to vaccines. Learn more about Norah’s invention!

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization

Photo credit: ©WTO/Bryan Lehmann

As the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has worked hard to fight COVID-19 and its lingering socioeconomic effects. She’s spoken out on the importance of creating a clearer movement of COVID-19 vaccines between borders. She has outlined ways the WTO can address both vaccine equity and global recovery. And she has stressed how global vaccine equity is key to economic and trade recovery.

 

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and COVID-19 Technical Lead of WHO

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove is an infectious disease epidemiologist and the COVID-19 Technical Lead of the WHO. She has researched diseases such as Ebola, SARS, and COVID-19. She has spoken openly on the various COVID variants and vaccine efficacy and the need for fair global vaccine access. She has explained how we can end the pandemic globally and the tools we need now to fight future global health crises. Hear more from Dr. Kerkhove during her TEDWomen 2021 talk.

Carine Umutoniwase, a ONE Champion

Carine Umutoniwase, a ONE Champion from Kenya, has been fighting the pandemic through her work with ONE and her organisation, Footprints for Change. During the pandemic, Carine ran weekly food drives for those in need within her community and worked to keep her community informed on preventative measures to fight COVID-19. She’s also worked to change the Footprints for Change model to adapt to meet community needs during the pandemic. Learn more about Carine’s work!

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology and co-founder of Vaccitech

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert is the founder of Vaccitech, the startup behind the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Her work on vaccines lead to huge strides in the fight against COVID-19. Professor Gilbert has also addressed the disparity of vaccination rates between high-income and low-income countries. And she’s spoken out on the need to be better prepared for future pandemics.

Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division

Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Etleva Kadilli is the Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division. Since the onset of COVID-19, Kadilli is leading UNICEF’s procurement and logistics response to the pandemic. In this role, she has overseen the push for accelerated access to COVID-19 vaccines. She also oversees the organisation’s work as the procurement coordinator for COVAX logistics and supply. She helped COVAX and other partners to procure 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.

Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, Co-Developer of CORBEVAX

Dr. Maria Bottazzi has co-developed a COVID-19 vaccine that is being called “The World’s COVID-19 Vaccine.” Unlike other COVID-19 vaccines, CORBEVAX immediately shared the vaccine technology with low-income countries, so they could create their own safe, effective, and affordable vaccines. Working with Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, she is making strides in the fight against the pandemic.

Know of more amazing women fighting the pandemic? Share them with us!

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