Mrs Susana Oguntoye, NGO Manager in Africa
1) Please introduce yourself and tell us your name, country of origin, profession and hobbies.
SUSANA OGUNTOYE .I am from Nigeria. I have specialized in Public Health and
Capacity/Health Systems Strengthening/Development. My hobbies are languages, traveling,
yoga, capoeira and music.
2) What was your academic cycle?
I completed a Bachelors of Science in Molecular Biology and Immunology at Kings College,
London in 2003. I subsequently completed a Master of Science and Public Health from the
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2007.
3) Why did you decide to work in Africa after studying and living in the Western World?
What was your motivation?
My origins and place of birth are in Africa, Nigeria to be more specific.
I had always aimed on giving back to the community/-ies that created me and always aim to
have a role that will engage with Africa,
if not Nigeria in particular as much as possible while I have something to give that could prove useful.
4) Please describe the project or business you implemented or lead in Africa?
I have been involved in multiple engagements in Africa.
Initially on Fistula in Nigeria and for Female Health, Research and Development in the UK
among African women and Girls; then, also to further advocacy and local NGO capacity in Nigeria,
Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya with regards to pediatric HIV/AIDS
and parent to child transmission of HIV. Finally I now work in almost the same regions on
health systems strengthening, specifically with regards to clinical laboratory and diagnostic
capacity for HIV/AIDS and opportunistic infections, like TB, malaria, STIs and others.
5) What were your fears before starting?
Absorptive capacity in the countries I work in is always a challenge with reporting a problem when it
comes to demonstrating true impact. In addition, I was anxious about the soloed funding channels that
seem very much HIV/AIDS focused and not broad enough to address the true deficiencies in
health systems service delivery in the areas of Africa I work in.
6) What experience did you make and what was your best experience?
That is a difficult question to answer since my experiences have varied not just across countries but
also across areas of operation. The most effective area of implementation I have been proud of being
a part of that pops into my mind, was to capacity build local organizations to really be able to report
on their own budgets, and impact. To help a partner organization really train local NGO staff on how
to work within structured M&E frameworks and provide regular monetary budget updates and
reports essential to a healthy and rigorous NGO community for health development.
7) How does your project affect the youth and women in Africa? How many of them do you
It varies. We always impact women and youth when working on health projects, but gender and youth
while being key to our audience has never been the one and only focus – although some of my
work 3-5 years ago was solely regarding women and my particular interests have been around women,
I have always been interested in a more broad based implementation strategy that includes and
ensures youth and women are engaged than exclusively tailored to maternal or child health alone.
8) What opportunities do you see for women in your field in Africa?
Lots of opportunities. Health impacts women and women leaders change health outcomes.
So significantly in fact, that gender specific impact is now part of all the worldwide strategies for
health – the MDGs, the UNAIDS strategy, the STOP TB strategy, the Global Fund to end HIV/AIDS,
TB and Malaria Strategy, etc ... In fact looking at the new UNIFEM/UN Women’s agency strategy,
the real aim is to ensure women and girls are awarded equal opportunity and possibilities across the
board and health is such a broad impact area you can work on almost anything health related for women
and have an impact on gender equality generally. Women interested in working in my field are able to
enter by creating a niche for themselves; languages, monitoring and evaluation knowhow; specific
knowledge like SPS and STATA for data analyses, or how to complete a cost benefit analysis all open
doors to women in the field. Of course the knowledge of the field and networking does not hurt.
Best is to indicate interest and start small – intern somewhere with a focus in health see if it suits and
take it farther….
9) What advice would you give women willing to start a business or community project prior
resuming the project?
Most importantly know your field and the environment; diversify your funding streams as early on as
you can by placing multiple irons in the fire concurrently and ensure that you not only have the need
but also the interest to fund that need longer term. Try and avoid clichés and look for what really drives
you – a passion for women and their health; an emotional connection to your home village; a drive to
change something following a personal encounter or incident are really good reasons. Development
work is often rewarding, because there is an immediate response and successes get back to you
directly, but it is also a field that is highly competitive and at times cutthroat so women that are
setting up their own shops need to learn to be assertive and drive their own agendas.
10) Do you support projects to educate other women or the youth in your community?
If yes, please introduce the project?
No I do not.
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