Centre for Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive, and Child Health

Adolescents’ health and lessons learned driving a Mahindra

By Nisso Nurova, Theme A Student Liaison (MSc in Public Health Candidate)

Nisso Nurova is the new MARCH Centre A theme student liaison, providing a link between the MARCH Centre senior leadership team and the student body. In this post read about what led her to study at LSHTM and her experience and interest in adolescent health.

I was born in Tajikistan the year after the collapse of the Soviet Union when my country descended into a civil war that lasted for most of my childhood. These vulnerable socio-economic environments—marked by a lack of welfare structures or local capacity to meet health demands—speaks to many concerns that bring likeminded people to institutions such as LSHTM where students learn to advocate for improvements of global health outcomes across multiple disciplines and contexts. It is also one that informed my interest in intersections of gender and health, particularly the health of women and young adults.

These experiences motivated me to be part of the MARCH team because of the Centres’ broad reaching research and multidisciplinary focus across the lifecycle from birth to adulthood. It is a special privilege for me to engage with and serve as a link between the diverse LSHTM student body and the MARCH theme A leaders, Cicely Marston and Helen Weiss.

My work has been focused primarily on sexual and reproductive rights and health of young women. I had previously worked in sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and human trafficking issues with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Tbilisi and the International Organisation for Migration in Vienna. This work was focused on the threats to sexual health and human rights brought by unequal power relationships. One central aspect to sexual health is achieving sexual rights, whether in conflict situations or within domestic spheres. There is still much work to be done in supporting groups vulnerable to SGBV, and providing care as well as long term solutions.

Before starting my MSc in Public Health at LSHTM, I was working in South Africa as a Project Manager of ‘Mzantsi Wakho,’ a community-traced study of adolescents living with HIV which aims to identify risk and resilience promoting factors for adherence to antiretroviral medication and access to sexual and reproductive health services in this unique age group. I was privileged to witness two phases of the study which gave me insight to how complicated adherence to medication and accessing services are for young adults transitioning into adulthood. This transition was influenced by the interactions between social pressures, substance misuse, transactional and unprotected sex.

During this time, some of our cohort of young women had become young mothers. This made me increasingly interested in the clinical and social barriers faced by adolescents in achieving sexual and reproductive health and, particularly, in the social circumstances that allow adolescents to make informed and responsible choices about sex and reproduction. Choices free from emotional, physical and economic coercion.

My work in South Africa also taught me that fieldwork can be all about cars; fixing them, breaking them, and driving a Mahindra for many hours in townships and villages investigating our highly mobile cohort in them. The Mahindra’s were a place to squeeze in morning meetings, lunch breaks, tears and infrequent giraffe sightings. Featured in this blog is a photo I wanted to share of one of our Mahindras parked outside a dissemination event in a village near King William’s Town, Eastern Cape. And the answer is yes, they were all that colourful!    

Currently, I am studying Public Health in the Environmental Health Stream. My experience so far at LSHTM has been incredibly positive. There is a special atmosphere of care and support among the LSHTM community, with a contagious energy. I feel humbled to be among a global network of health professionals, especially as we learn from each other’s perspectives during our tutorials as well as through sharing our experiences in social events held by LSHTM.

As A theme student liaison I especially look forward to learning more of the research priorities of the A theme leaders, and engaging with students on ideas for events, debates and discussions with the MARCH team on global health research, policy and interventions to improve the health of women, children and adolescents.

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