There are so many women at Burnet doing incredible research to improve the lives of women and children in our region. Help us raise $50,000 so they can continue their amazing work.

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International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of the women in our lives – the women in our family, the women we admire, the women we work alongside.

It is also a day to reflect upon the lives of women in different parts of the world, and the struggles – some very different to our own, some universal – that these women face day in and day out:

  • The struggle to find adequate healthcare for themselves and their children.
  • The struggle to inoculate their children against such diseases as measles, rubella and polio – something we’ve been doing in Australia for decades.
  • The struggle to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

I myself work with some remarkable women at Burnet Institute, who are doing incredible life-saving research in our labs and out in the field. I’d like to introduce you to just three of them:

Women in Science

Image: (L-R) Women in Science at Burnet: Professor Gilda Tachedjian, EVE-M; Pele Melepia, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, PNG; Lisa Davidson, Immunisation Project, PNG.

You may know of Professor Gilda Tachedjian, who has been with Burnet since 2002. Gilda is currently leading a ground-breaking initiative designed to transform the sexual and reproductive health of women worldwide.

The vagina is host to a variety of naturally occurring microbes (known as the microbiome) that work in concert to promote women’s sexual and reproductive health.

The EVE-M (Enhancing the Vaginal Environment and Microbiome) project will harness the health promoting properties of an optimal vaginal microbiome. The aim is to develop knowledge, innovative devices and active pharmaceutical ingredients to combat a variety of conditions affecting women’s sexual reproductive health.

Based in our office in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Pele Melepia has worked with the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) program for over five years. She is currently the in-country lead on a Quality of Care study, known as the ‘Gutpela Sevis’ study, which loosely translates as ‘quality care’ in the local language, Tok Pisin.

Pele and I work quite closely together on this project and one of the biggest issues we’re seeing is that merely increasing coverage of services in PNG is not enough to save maternal and newborn life. Why? Because unless women have a safe, effective, efficient and equitable health service, they simply won’t go. It is their experience of the health service that needs to be improved.

Lisa Davidson, Brooke Vandenberg and Thalia Wat are leading a team spearheading a number of initiatives to improve the appallingly low rate of immunisation in PNG.

Talking to Lisa about the challenges facing mothers in PNG when it comes to getting their kids immunised is a real eye-opener, especially the issues with access. One of the most shocking examples was of the immunisation teams having to actually row to isolated families in dug-out canoes.

I was horrified when she told me that there had been an outbreak of polio in PNG as recently as 2018. It just highlights the importance of the work she is doing to improve take-up and access to immunisation.

These are just three of the inspiring women I get to work with at Burnet, each dedicated to improving the lives of women around the world.

I urge you to join me in celebrating International Women’s Day 2020 by helping raise $50,000, to support women in science at Burnet Institute and women in need around the world.

Best wishes,

Professor Caroline Homer AO
Co-Program Director, Maternal and Child Health
Chair, Burnet Institute Gender Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee