Tebogo T. Leepile was the winner of the 2021 Three Minute Thesis competition, with her presentation, "MyData_MyVoice: Prevalence of Anemia among San Women and Young Children in Rural Botswana." She aims to understand the association between household food security and the nutritional status of women of childbearing age and young children amongst the indigenous people (San/Basarwa/Bushmen) in Botswana. She will also explore the development, role and use of nutrition interventions based on indigenous-knowledge.
The majority of indigenous people worldwide including the San, also known as the Basarwa or Bushmen in Botswana are traditionally hunters and gatherers who reside mostly in remote and resource-limited settings. As is in other countries, the San’ reliance on the environment for sustenance has been decreased with developments and integration with mainstream populations. Poor child and maternal nutrition indicators (e.g., stunting and low birthweight) have been observed where the majority of the San reside. Information on the San’ food security status and indigenous knowledge is unavailable. The government of Botswana is committed to improving livelihoods of all rural area dwellers including the San. However, various factors including climatic changes and poor utilization of health services impede the success of these efforts. The purpose of this research is to use both qualitative and quantitative methods to foster community dialogue, and assess the level of household food security and nutrition status of the San women of reproductive age and young children.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
A public scholar recognizes and respects the role of local communities as important stakeholders in research. The aim of my research, therefore, is to harness the voice of indigenous people in health research and policy development in Botswana. I hope to create a dialogue around traditional knowledge and its potential benefits in addressing child malnutrition and food insecurity.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
The PSI initiative challenges graduate students to begin imagining and exploring their roles in society sooner than later. This provides an array of avenues for mentorship, knowledge exchange and networking necessary for growth and development.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
I am passionate about research and teaching. My future vision is to actively support initiatives with a focus on poverty eradication, grassroots development, women and child health and gender equality. My PhD training is a worthwhile experience and a fulfilling preparatory phase with a holistic approach.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
The PSI initiative seeks to promote an inclusive approach in research that recognizes the interests of all stakeholders. This has afforded me an opportunity to reach out to the marginalized communities in remote locations in Botswana while fully engaging with all other stakeholders whose input continually contributes to my personal and professional development immensely.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I was involved in several nutrition research projects in different capacities which ignited my passion for health research. My commitment to improving food security and nutrition vulnerabilities and risks for women and young children in low-resource settings motivated me to pursue graduate studies. Above all, I hope my decision to pursue doctoral studies inspire girls and women from all spheres of life to follow their dreams against all odds.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
UBC is a prestigious university with world-renowned researchers. Personally, after a few challenges UBC is “the institution that healed me”, rejuvenated and reignited my passion for research. The UBC’ interdisciplinary programs create a platform for one to explore other domains, enhancing the integration of knowledge from other disciplines. Most importantly UBC has an abundance of resources needed for the training of well-rounded leaders, researchers and global citizens.
A public scholar recognizes and respects the role of local communities as important stakeholders in research. The aim of my research is to harness the voice of indigenous people in health research and policy development in Botswana. I hope to create a dialogue around traditional knowledge and its potential benefits in addressing food insecurity and malnutrition.