A nutritionist in Kenya shares advice for prospective students – Nature.com

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.
Advertisement
Christopher Bendana is a freelance science journalist based in Kampala.
You can also search for this author in PubMed  Google Scholar
You have full access to this article via your institution.

Rose Okoyo Opiyo chats with her 96-year old uncle about the importance of exercise and healthy eating.Credit: Rose Okoyo Opiyo
Rose Okoyo Opiyo is a Kenyan nutritionist at the University of Nairobi and was a panellist at a webinar held last month entitled ‘Pursuing a PhD in Africa: Bridging the gender gap’. The webinar was organized by the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA), a group of research universities and institutes that aims to strengthen research at African universities by sponsoring PhD candidates, postdoctoral fellows and faculty development across seven African nations. More than half of the 228 PhD candidates that CARTA is currently sponsoring are women. Opiyo was part of the first cohort, from 2011 to 2015.
I had tried several other scholarships before I succeeded at CARTA. I think my advanced age of 47 years when I applied in 2011 was a red flag to many organizations. The CARTA initiative has a higher age limit than many other schemes. When I applied, the age limit was 50 for women and 45 for men, although the policy has now changed to 45 for women and 40 for men.
This opportunity means that women can return to further studies after raising their children.
I like that CARTA has a childcare support system. It pays for a carer to accompany the researcher and their children when taking part in training and programming. Carers can be researchers’ spouses or mothers. This is a game changer we need in Africa if we are to have more female researchers advance.
I did not personally use the childcare opportunity because my children were already adolescents. However, CARTA sponsored me at my local university, where I was able to keep a close watch on my children. I did not want to leave to study abroad and then return to find them completely different children.
Opiyo received a scholarship from the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa to pursue her PhD at the University of Nairobi.Credit: Rose Okoyo Opiyo
Pursuing my PhD as a mother, wife and woman was challenging. I had to work harder than my male colleagues. While my focus should have been working on my PhD, I would find that home responsibilities, as well as my husband and children, competed for my attention. My husband, for example, did not understand why I had to spend so much time working on my PhD.
Luckily, I had learnt to juggle these responsibilities earlier in my career, when I got pregnant while doing my undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University in Kenya. You need to divide your time well to cater to different activities. For example, I used mornings and evenings to study and read, and did my laboratory research between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.. My car was usually the last in the car park.
Focus, focus, focus. It does not matter at what stage in life you are — whether you are young, old or with children. If you lack focus, you will not be able to complete your course, be it a doctorate or a master’s degree.
Also, don’t work in isolation. Many female students withdraw when faced with challenges. But they need to talk to their colleagues. Luckily for me, CARTA has a habit of checking on its fellows and lends a listening ear.
We need to show that our research helps people and gives solutions to the community. Take, for instance, the work that I am doing educating the community on the right foods to eat to minimize the emergence of diseases.

Women in science
Unlike in the 1990s, when many people were undernourished, many Kenyans today are eating too much and having to cope with the after-effects. Can we find a solution by encouraging people to eat more of the available local food so that they can live healthier lives? Eating local, healthy foods, such as thorn melons (Cucumis metuliferus), mangoes and lemons, will ultimately cut down on the prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and on health-care costs. That is where I am investing my energy.
Yes, the societal belief that the woman’s office is the kitchen has to change. Home chores such as cooking should be a shared responsibility. Women should be supported to achieve their dreams.
doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-00289-y
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Meeting the challenges of research across Africa
Engineering a brighter future for refugees and female scientists in Uganda
Fighting food insecurity with CRISPR at Zimbabwe’s first private research institute
Women in science
Flight emissions, which fish to eat — the week in infographics
News
Eat more fish: when switching to seafood helps — and when it doesn’t
News
Food security: embed equity in new targets
Correspondence
Assessing social aid: the scale-up process needs evidence, too
Comment
Equitable drug access: small-scale manufacturing units can help
Correspondence
African-specific molecular taxonomy of prostate cancer
Article
Yay to stipend rise, say UK postgrads — but don’t stop there
Career News
Asteroid crash, COVID sleuths — the week in infographics
News
How hiring policies can help end workplace harassment
Career Feature
The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital
Columbus, Ohio, United States
American Institute of Physics, United States
Multiple locations
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA, United States
American Institute of Physics, United States
Multiple locations
You have full access to this article via your institution.

Meeting the challenges of research across Africa
Engineering a brighter future for refugees and female scientists in Uganda
Fighting food insecurity with CRISPR at Zimbabwe’s first private research institute
Women in science
An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.
Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.
Nature (Nature) ISSN 1476-4687 (online) ISSN 0028-0836 (print)
© 2022 Springer Nature Limited

source

Leave a Comment