Binta Iliyasu grew up in northern Nigeria, where she was among the third primary class to ever be established in Bari, Rogo local government area in Kano State. “Education was delayed in getting to our region,” she says. “But my parents were enlightened by the missionaries about its importance, and they risked sending me and other girls to school.”
Today, this vibrant mother of five—the first woman university graduate in her community—and soon to complete her PhD in Biochemistry at the Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, Binta is committed to improving the living standards of smallholder farmers in her region and beyond.
Binta’s research centres on the development of immunity against Trypanosoma brucei, or trypanosomiasis, the most pervasive and serious cattle disease in sub-Saharan Africa, which exists primarily in rural areas where poverty is widespread. “This is a wasting disease that is transmitted by blood-feeding tsetse flies,” she explains. “It is called ‘sleeping sickness’ in humans, and sammore in the local language, in animals. Without treatment, both the animals and people die from the disease.” Trypanosomiasis kills between three and seven million cattle annually, costing farmers millions of dollars in lost production and treatment costs. It causes the deaths of an estimated 48,000 people annually, according to the International Livestock Research Institute.
Binta hopes her research will contribute to improving human and animal health in Nigeria. “I also aspire to be a role model who will inspire the participation of women,” she resolves. “I will use my advancement to encourage other women to take up careers in science and also to participate in agricultural research.” Thanks, to her hard work, Binta says the first set of a DNA vaccine against African trypanosomiasis disease is ready for primary screening and testing
Binta appreciates the motivation that AWARD has given her, in advancing her career, particularly the mentorship she has received. “I have suddenly become visible and confident even on the cultural front, where traditionally, a woman should be seen but not heard! In addition, my research output and professional competence have increased. My voice is beginning to be heard as I am becoming increasingly visible not only in my region, but also on the national stage.” Through AWARD, Binta explains, she has acquired scientific and inter-personal skills that have enabled her to perform with excellence in the defence of her PhD proposal.
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