Meet Dora: our sister project for vaginal health in Nigeria

As sisterhood projects are spreading like harmattan fire across the globe, Nigeria is not left behind. Get to know the Dora project! We are thrilled to introduce this Nigerian sister project to you. While following the Isala project for three years already, we were inspired to set up a sister project in our home country. It was our main coordinator, Dr. Kingsley Anukam from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria, that linked us with the Isala team in Belgium and that is exactly where our journey started. In this blog, we would like to take you on our amazing trip so far. 😊  

Who is Dora?

Similarly as in other sisterhood countries, we also named the project after a unique woman from our home country. We are happy to introduce her! Meet Dora, a woman who is an inspiration to many Nigerian women and who is now being honored in this citizen-science project for vaginal health.

Dora Akunyili (her full name) was born in Nigeria and had various roles. She studied in Nigeria and became not only a pharmacist and pharmacologist, but also a true role model, academic, mentor, educator, public servant, politician, anti-corruption crusader, and we can definitely continue for some time.  Dora played a significant role in global public health and Nigerian politics. One great example includes her fight against fake drugs in the early 2000s that included several efforts to combat counterfeit drugs and unsafe foods that led to the death of many people, especially women and children. She proved herself fearless, courageous, and determined to rid Nigeria of fake drugs while not withstanding numerous challenges and threats herself. Her efforts and honesty in pursuing her dreams eventually ensured the safety and quality of medications and foods in our home country. Really great work done by Dora!

The enormous successes achieved by her yielded both local and international recognition. She won 930 awards for her inspiring work, wow! Such high number of awards was never reached before by an African. Nigeria and other parts of the world will never forget her immense contributions in the fight against fake drugs and unsafe foods, and in streamlining the regulations. Nigerian women benefit a lot from her work since drugs that negatively affect vaginal health were also removed from circulation as part of her work.

Generally speaking, Dora’s work was characterized by diligence, honesty and anti-corruption. She became minister of the Ministry of Information and Communications  in Nigeria in 2008-2010 and improved its image  by promoting transparency and dissemination of honest information.

Sadly, a few years later, in 2014, our legend Dora died from uterine cancer at the age of 59. Many years later, she continues to be a source of inspiration to many people across the globe, but especially in Nigeria we will always remember, admire and celebrate her for having left her indelible footprints on the sands of time in giving her best for better global health and improved political standards. The legacy she left in Nigeria and elsewhere as well as her direct impact on public health and governance in our country make her a real icon for many people, especially Nigerian women. Dora lives on in our hearts and most importantly in this citizen-science project for vaginal health. The core objectives of the Dora project include the following:

  • Creating awareness on the role of microbes in sexual and reproductive health
  • Limiting stigmas and cultural taboos associated with vaginal health
  • Identifying microbes that keep the vagina healthy
  • Mapping the vaginal microbiome using high-tech methods
  • Creating a biobank of vaginal microbes to be used for therapeutics
  • Building capacity for women & girls in citizen science in order for them to take their vaginal health in their hands.

The Dora team is really looking forward to the coming months! Stay tuned because updates on our work will be posted soon 😊

This blog was contributed by Prof. Cecilia Eme*, Prof. Nneka Agbakoba and Kingsley Anukam

*Cecilia Eme is in the Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Nigeria and she voluntarily translated the DORA project core objectives into Igbo language.