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Championing Global Maternal and Newborn Health: Jacqueline's Inspiring Journey

Championing Global Maternal and Newborn Health: Jacqueline's Inspiring Journey

>> Writes Jacqueline Minja

I'm Jacqueline, and I would like to begin by declaring my keen interest and passion for maternal and newborn health! My steadfast passion for maternal and newborn health has been the driving force behind my journey at the Ifakara Health Institute – simply Ifakara. 

As a dedicated research scientist specializing in statistics, I channel my expertise into making a tangible difference in the lives of mothers and their newborns. With both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Statistics from the University of Dar es Salaam, and currently pursuing a Master's in Monitoring and Evaluation at the Open University of Tanzania, my academic background underscores my commitment to advancing health outcomes.

My adventure at Ifakara began in 2020 as an eager intern. By December of that year, I stepped into a pivotal role, coordinating the Kizazi Kipya project, which aimed to evaluate interventions for children living with HIV in mining areas across Chunya, Bukombe, and Geita. This transformative learning experience marked my initial foray into large-scale project coordination and set the stage for my future contributions.

Progressing to the role of Research Officer for the Every Newborn Birth (EN-BIRTH) Phase 2 project, and eventually advancing to Research Scientist, my dedication to maternal and newborn health truly flourished. I participated in projects like IMPULSE, which aimed to improve the quality and utilization of newborn data to reduce neonatal mortality across African countries. My dissemination activities took me to South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, and Italy, where I shared our findings to inspire improvements in maternal and newborn health practices.

Motivated by the pressing challenges faced by mothers and newborns, such as low birth weight and premature births, my colleagues and I visited hospitals to provide support and gain firsthand insights into their obstacles. These experiences deepened my commitment to making a tangible difference in maternal and newborn health outcomes.

Initially hesitant to apply for the Countdown to 2030 fellowship since Tanzania was not listed, my supervisors' encouragement led me to apply—and I was thrilled to be selected as one of ten participants worldwide. This year-long fellowship includes workshops in Nairobi and Kigali and a month-long residency in Senegal focusing on manuscript drafting and data analysis. This opportunity represents a significant milestone in my career at Ifakara.

Beyond the fellowship, I have authored a paper titled "Short Inter-birth Intervals and Associated Factors Among Women of Reproductive Age: Evidence from a National Representative Survey in Tanzania," currently under review for publication. Throughout my tenure at Ifakara, I have actively engaged in diverse projects, leveraging the DHIS2 system to drive research and promote positive health outcomes.

As I continue this rewarding journey, I am more committed than ever to improving maternal and newborn health on a global scale. Together with dedicated colleagues and supportive mentors, I am poised to drive meaningful change and champion the health of mothers and their newborns worldwide.


Ms. Jacqueline Minja is a research scientist specializing in statistics at the Ifakara Health Institute. She works with the Health Systems, Interventions, Impact Evaluation and Policy Department. Jacqueline is among 10 recipients of the 2024 cohort of the Countdown 2030 fellowship program.Link to Countdown fellows: https://www.countdown2030.org/country-collaborations/countdown-to-2030-fellows