AKU-VIP Alumni Spotlight: Deena Siddiqui

Deena Siddiqui joined AKU's Virtual Internship Programme as a recent graduate of Public Health and International Development from the University of Toronto. Deena wanted to work within the AKDN to explore areas of gender inequalities and health disparities within the context of Pakistan. Her work placement was with Dr Tazeen Saeed Ali at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at AKU, Karachi.

What kind of projects did you work on during your placement?

I collaborated with Amirah Nazir (Dr Tazeen's previous mentee), for a project titled Women's Empowerment in Pakistan – Narrative Review. This review was compiled to look at the evolution of women empowerment interventions throughout history, the current determinants and outcomes of gender equality in Pakistan. The review gave holistic recommendations that moved beyond financial and educational interventions and towards cultivating a society that works together to enable women to act according to their will and aspirations.

Were you able to work in your areas of interest?

Yes! I had the opportunity to explore multiple themes such as gender inequality, adolescent health, misunderstandings around family planning and contraception. I also learned about how reluctant people are when it comes to seeking healthcare for maternal, sexual, and reproductive health in Pakistan. I was able to explore areas such as the traditional male and female roles in adolescent children, shame and anxiety around puberty, lack of awareness about sexual and reproductive health, an overburden of family planning on women, and delays in seeking healthcare.

What were some of the highlights of your placement?

Along with my mentor, I worked on a project titled Sihaatmand Khandaan (healthy family). I read through 57 focus group discussions and 38 in-depth interview transcripts from women in Chitral, Sindh, and Gilgit-Baltistan in order to complete a 3-page executive summary and PowerPoint presentation for healthcare professionals, government officials, and policymakers in the country. This placement was also the first time I worked on a manuscript and analysed raw data.

What was some of the impact you had as a result of your work?

Our presentation to Pakistani officials for Sihaatmand Khandaan led to them agreeing to work towards the implementation of this intervention in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund! This was a big win for me as I was given access to connecting with and presenting to government officials and actually made them rethink their policies!