2022: Channeling the Voices of Women in the Community: An Interview with Maureen Luba

August 26, 2022

Maureen Luba is a Masters student in the Global Health Delivery Program at Harvard Medical School and the Africa Region Advocacy Advisor at Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention (AVAC).

What do you do?
I am a public health specialist and passionate champion for women’s health and rights. For the past 14 years, I have worked with civil society and grassroot communities in eastern and southern Africa to fight for access to quality health care for marginalized communities. Currently, I am a Master’s student in the Harvard Global Health Delivery program and work for AVAC, a global HIV prevention advocacy organization. I sit on a number of global advisory boards to ensure I channel the voices of African women into decisions that are being made. 

What led you to where you are today?
My first job after my undergraduate studies was with a local NGO in Lilongwe. I supported community groups for people living with HIV (PLHIV). During a meeting in 2010, I met a woman whose story inspired me to become an HIV activist. She was an older woman in her late 70s. She looked a little disturbed and was shaking. When I spoke with her, she told me she had no food at home and had taken her medication on an empty stomach. She shared that her husband infected her with HIV after having sex with other women andshe was forced to stay in the marriage because she was financially dependent on him. She also told me getting access to her HIV medication was a challenge because she had to walk more than 10km monthly for her drug refills. I realized that I needed to do more. As a district coordinator, I had access to policymakers and funders, but women like her were never invited to meetings where funding decisions and program priorities were made. Since then, my work has been to share the voices of marginalized communities with policymakers and funders.

What is something you wish to accomplish in your career?
One thing I have learned is that sometimes countries are only on the receiving end of global-level policy decisions. Having worked at the country level for over a decade, I would love to work at the global level. 

What impact do you think GHDI will have on your career?
I was amazed by how much I learned within three weeks. I gained some skills and knowledge, which I am already applying in my day-to-day work. For example, a week after finishing the course, I was invited to a supply chain meeting where I tapped into what I learned and contributed to the conversation. The case studies were insightful, and I learned some practical strategies on how to deal with ongoing public health challenges. I'm very positive that I'll use everything I learned from GHDI in the future. 

What is one thing you are most proud of in your career?
I am very proud of the fact that Malawi is one of the few countries that has achieved epidemic control of HIV and I am glad that our civil society and community advocacy efforts have contributed to this success.

What advice would you give to someone who's starting out in healthcare?
Serve with patience, kindness and compassion!