By Walcott Aganu
Women in science do seem to find it challenging to be recognized and achieve academic excellence; this is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, due to cultural limitations and bias. Early-career female researchers don’t have many female role models for motivation and mentorship. However, this disposition is changing, and one of the names that have led the charge is Ekanem Braide, a professor of parasitology and epidemiology. Professor Ekanem Braide would surely be mentioned when women academics in Nigeria are being discussed. Today, on Amazons Watch, we look through her journey.
Braide was born in Cross River State, Nigeria in 1946. She studied zoology at the University of Ife before obtaining her Master’s degree in Parasitology (1973), and a Doctorate in Epedimiology, Cornell University, New York (1978). She holds a Certificate in Epidemiological Methods from Southampton University (British Council Course). She is a Fellow and Co-founder, Nigerian Society of Parasitology; Fellow, Salzburg Seminar Session 319; Fellow (President-designate) Nigerian Academy of Science
At the early stage of her career, Braide taught in Community Secondary School, Ugep from 1966 to 1968, before transferring to College of Education, Port Harcourt (1973), and later moved to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where she lectured between 1973 and 1976. In 1978, she was appointed Officer/Researcher (pioneer) in charge of the Onchocerciasis Control Unit of the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research, Kaduna until 1979. Braide joined the University of Calabar in 1979, as a lecturer, and was promoted to Professor’s rank in 1991.
Braide research interest focuses on disease control, operational research, impact assessment of interventions, rapid assessment methods in mapping diseases and community initiatives in disease control. Her interest in disease control saw her appointed as Zonal Facilitator (South East), Nigerian Guinea worm Eradication Programme between 1988 and 1998. Braide later joined the World Health Organisation /Federal Government of Nigeria Guinea worm Eradication Certification Committee until 2013 when Nigeria was certified guinea worm free.
Braide coordinated Anglophone teams for African Programme on Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), multi-country impact assessment of onchocerciasis control activities in Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria. She was a member of the TDR/APOC team that developed RAPLOA, a rapid assessment tool for determining the prevalence of Loa for quick identification of communities in areas co-endemic for onchocerciasis and loiasis that are at high risk of severe adverse reactions to Ivermectin treatment. In 2001, Braide became a member of the WHO/APOC Technical Consultative Committee (TCC), and in 2003, she assumed the committee’s chairmanship position until 2006.
Between 2003 and 2006, Braide served as a member on the committee of Mectizan Experts. She served as a member (Alternate Chairman) of National Steering Committee, Nigerian Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme in 2007, which she held till 2018. The Cross River State government appointed her Chairman, Technical Advisory Committee, Cross River State Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme in 2018. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of Sightsavers for eight years and chaired the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) (the four-year Sightsavers) DFID funded NTD UNITED project.
Braide is Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Leprosy Mission (TLM) Nigeria.
Braid also served as the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Lafia (2011 – 2016) and Vice-Chancellor Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), Calabar (2004 – 2009). She is also one of Nigeria’s foremost non-governmental organisation board members, Society for Family Health, Nigeria.
In January 2021 she was appointed the first female President of Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS). An appointment which has been lauded as grand breaking in different corners of the society.
“The appointment shows that it’s possible to overcome the implicit bias, opinion and attitudes that prevent women from getting into the leadership positions they deserve. Her appointment can be likened to the phrase “breaking through the glass ceiling”. At times, what holds women back is themselves because Nigerian society has drilled into everyone that such roles are reserved for men. Therefore, she has set a precedent that makes it easier for women to aspire to and attain distinguished leadership. Professor Braide is an example for women in every sphere” Professor Olanike Adeyemo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan.
In a time when Africa needs women to show that it is possible to overcome the implicit bias, opinion and attitudes that prevent women from getting into the leadership positions they deserve and push the continent forward Prof. Braide is standing tall.
Awards and Recognitions
Braide is a recipient of the Jimmy/Roslynn Carter Award for outstanding dedication and achievement in eradicating guinea worm in Nigeria. In 2000, she received Cross River State 2000 Millennium Award. In July 2010, Braide received a Nigerian national honour award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) to recognise her contribution to disease control in Nigeria conferred on her by Nigerian president.
In celebrating outstanding academic leadership in Nigeria, professor Ekanem Braide is Amazons Watch Magazines heroine of the week.