Reflections of an IMMANA Fellow: Cynthia Matare

Dr. Cynthia Matare started her IMMANA Fellowship in July 2015 and was based in Zambia where she focused on developing a tool to measure women’s time use. The instrument she aims to create will help in understanding how women’s allocation of time impacts the nutritional status of the infants and young children they care for. Dr. Matare started her Fellowship with previous experience as a nutritionist working on maternal, infant, and child health in Zimbabwe. She is based at Cornell University, and recently presented on her project at the Cornell International Nutrition Seminar in Ithaca, NY.  
We asked her to reflect on her experience as an IMMANA Fellow and share advice for future researchers in her field. Here’s what she had to say . . .

How has your IMMANA project impacted you personally? Has it changed your mind about anything?

By far, my fondest memories during my fellowship are the times we spent with the women, observing them as they went about their daily activities. Although we spent a mere 6 hours with each woman, the pressure that these women have on their time and the drudgery of their work were evident. These experiences cemented my appreciation of the need for the research I am doing, both within and outside of my IMMANA project. Now, I have greater assurance that we need to do more to empower caregivers of young children, if we want to improve nutrition outcomes in the first 1,000 days.

What are the next steps you anticipate for your project in the near future?

For my project, I was collaborating with CARE International, on their 'Nutrition at the Center' program in Zambia. As the program is nearing the end (2017), we are planning on a larger implementation of the resulting women’s time use tool in Zambia. This will enable CARE to add another layer to their final evaluation, and explore how women’s time use might explain the impact of the program. Additionally, we are looking forward to publishing our findings for larger dissemination, with the hopes of encouraging more effort towards measuring and understanding women’s time use and time burdens.
Please describe one experience during your project that exemplified the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to your field of study.
By its very nature, nutrition is an interdisciplinary field, and I have long appreciated this. However, because I was focusing on women’s time use from a nutrition-specific lens, it was always a pleasant surprise to have people interested in my work and relate to it, but from a totally different discipline. Engaging with researchers and professionals from other fields enabled me to have diverse perspectives of women’s time use and workloads. I expect that this will yield a trans-disciplinary measure of women’s time use.

What do you think is unique about the IMMANA Fellowship program and how has that aspect
 benefitted you professionally?

I benefited tremendously from being a part of the ANH Academy research community. Although not directly a part of the IMMANA Fellowship program, it was through the IMMANA Fellowship that I came to know about it. The ANH community provided vast opportunities to network with others engaged in agriculture and nutrition research, both online and physically at the Academy Week in Ethiopia. The Academy also hosted several insightful webinars, which allowed me to think about my own research in new ways.

One of IMMANA’s project goals is to balance gender representation in the research field. As one of many female fellows in your IMMANA cohort, can you describe an experience you had during your project (either a challenge or a triumph) that you think was unique to you, as a woman in your field?

Being a woman in the research field has mostly been a good experience for me. Because the large majority of our participants were women, I found it relatively easier to build rapport with them, which made them more comfortable and open up more. This was especially important when we were collecting qualitative data.

What advice might you give other early-career researchers looking to emulate your career path?

Remain curious. Always ask questions. And, keep an eye out for training and networking opportunities.
For more information about IMMANA Fellowships and how to apply under Round 3, join the informational webinar on 8th December

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