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Spotlight on: Mandi Tembo

Mandi is a PhD research fellow with LSHTM based in Zimbabwe, where she's working on menstrual health and hygiene interventions as part of a wider sexual and reproductive health programme for young people. Mandi is also our latest addition to the MARCH Senior Leadership team - and we're delighted to have her on board. Ahead of the first meeting, we caught up with Mandi to learn more about her background, extracurricular activities, and inspirations.

Mandi Tembo

"My favorite thing about working here is the sense of community. Whether I am in the office, in the field, or in the classroom I always feel connected to and supported by my co-workers and my supervisory team."

What is your role at LSHTM and who and what does it involve?

I am a PhD research fellow with LSHTM based in Zimbabwe. Currently, I am in the second year of my PhD and my research is focused on investigating the acceptability and effectiveness of a comprehensive menstrual health and hygiene intervention nested within a community-based sexual and reproductive health program (called CHIEDZA) for young people aged 16 – 24 years across Zimbabwe. My supervisory team includes Suzanna Francis, Helen Weiss, Jenny Renju, and Rashida Ferrand.

Aside from my PhD work, I am also the menstrual health lead for CHIEDZA and that usually involves making sure that: 1) CHIEDZA is fully stocked with menstrual health products and other related materials; 2) all staff are adequately trained on menstrual health and on how to use and look after all the menstrual products we deliver to menstruators in the community; and that 3) all menstrual health related work is documented and flighted on our different media platforms.

Where can we find you?

If I am in London, you can usually find me in the LSHTM Library. I love working from there.

If I am in Harare, Zimbabwe, you can usually find me in my office at the ZimLSHTM offices.

How long have you worked here (and what was your previous job)?

I have been working here for 2 years now. Before this, I was a project coordinator for an STI study in Cape Town, South Africa under the Desmond Tutu Foundation.

What is a typical day for you?

I hate early mornings but I am usually up fairly early and start the day with a coffee and a review of my all my emails. After responding to emails, I usually head to office to meet up with the menstrual health study research assistants to go over the tasks of the day. The rest of day is either dedicated to meetings, data review and analysis, and/or site visits. Site visits are an absolute favorite as I get to see the CHIEDZA program and the menstrual health intervention within it come to life! Site visits usually include socializing with the brilliant youth in our communities, leading SRH education discussions and/or attempting to dance as well as the clients on site.

Tell us about a project you are currently working on?

As I mentioned, I am working on my PhD that is looking at menstrual health among young women across women. Apart from that, I am also working on a really exciting personal project – The Bleed Read. Through my research I found that there is a huge gap in menstrual health knowledge across Zimbabwe. So many men and women of all ages have questions about menstruation, menopause, irregular bleeding, pain management and so much more… The Bleed Read is a virtual platform dedicated to bridging this knowledge gap and facilitating positive period dialogues in our communities.

Website: www.thebleedread.com

Instagram: @thebleedread

Twitter: @bleedread

What three words would you use to describe your role?

(menstrual health) faciliator, advisor, enthusiast

What is your favourite thing about working here?

My favourite thing about working here is the sense of community. Whether I am in the office, in the field, or in the classroom I always feel connected to and supported by my co-workers and my supervisory team.

Can you tell us the most unusual thing you've done at the organisation?

I wouldn’t say unusual but perhaps, unexpected… The most unexpected part of my work has been around public engagement. Over the last 6 months, I have had to get increasingly comfortable with being behind the microphone or infront of the camera talking about meaningful youth engagement, sexual and reproductive health, and more specifically, menstrual health and hygiene. I have spoken on panels with Ambassadors, answered listeners’ questions around menstrual cup use and period sex on national radio, and helped produce short videos highlighting our work across Zimbabwe. Being a natural introvert, it has been a challenging but deeply satisfying journey. I love that this aspect of my work has allowed me to celebrate the great work we are all doing and to disseminate much needed information around youth and SRHR.

All of our media can be found using the links below:

Zim-LSTHM: https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/research/centres-projects-groups/zimbabwe-group

Website: www.chiedza.co.zw

LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/mandikudza-tembo-5a7a3483/ 

What is your proudest career achievement?

So far, I would say my proudest achievement has been submitting my first first-author paper. Hopefully, there will be many more to come.

"I am inspired by any woman, particularly any woman of color, that has defied all the odds and climbed their career ladder."

Where are you from?
I am from Harare, Zimbabwe

“When I’m not working I am…”

Baking or in the gym working out*

*We're hoping that Mandi will bring us some of these baked goods next time she's in London.

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

I don’t think I can narrow down all my inspirations to just ONE person.

I am inspired by so many people from the many different spheres of my life. I am inspired by any woman, particularly any woman of color, that has defied all the odds and climbed their career ladder. I am inspired by my parents that have worked through the broken Zimbabwean economic system  and managed to financially support me in my studies and in my life. Lastly, I am inspired by my team here in Zimbabwe – a team that has consistently adapted to the everchanging and everchallenging economic, environmental, and political climate in Zimbabwe to deliver quality youth-friendly services in our community.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I always wanted to be a doctor. Specifically, a gynaecologist. I guess I wasn’t that far off...

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Empathic, ambitious, funny (sometimes you’re laughing at me but most times, you’re laughing with me – either way… I AM FUNNY!)

What is your favourite book?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

What is your most treasured possession?

This is a tough one… At this stage in my PhD, I would have to say my laptop. My whole life is on this thing right now!

What is your favourite place?

I absolutely love CAPE TOWN – it has everything you need to have an amazing time. Vineyards galore, beaches, wildlife, and seafood.

What would surprise people to know about you?

I am extremely shy. I think most people assume I am an extrovert but I am just really good at acting like one.

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