Interview with Dr Kizanne James, by Sian Bryant

After graduating from Southampton, Dr Kizanne James (MSc Leadership and management in Health and Social Care, 2017) has made the world her home. Kizanne is a Community Engagement Specialist, based in Trinidad and Tobago, working for the global women’s reproductive rights movement SheDecides which supports and establishes national and regional movements in Latin America, Africa and India. During her studies at Southampton Kizanne won a WiSET award which recognises the impact of women in science.

It has been almost a year since you graduated from Southampton, how has your life changed?

It has been an amazing year. I am working in a field that I enjoy and that is making a difference in the lives of women and girls across the globe. I have wonderful opportunities to build relationships with strong and inspiring women from various backgrounds, in a way that I hope will ensure a better life for women in developing settings.

I was also honoured to be announced as one of the winners of 120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institution for Population and Reproductive Health. As a result, I was invited to share my work during a week of meetings in Washington DC and New York City.

I am also a Women Deliver Young Leader, a prestigious fellowship rated fourth in the world, that works towards the advancement of women and girls globally. Women Deliver selects budding leaders from over 120 countries every three years for training and development within the context of reproductive health and rights.


Tell us a bit more about the work you do now?

I am doing exactly the thing I was inspired to do, and that is giving women a voice to have the power to make their own decisions and have access to the information they need to make those choices. I work for the SheDecides global movement which promotes, provides, protects and enhances the fundamental reproductive rights of every girl and woman. Our work is based on the belief that every woman should be able to safely exercise her right to decide for her life. My job is to coordinate, support and establish national and regional movements.


What inspired you to work in this field?

I was at medical school in Jamaica and I met a young woman who was facing a challenging situation. She had contracted a number of sexually transmitted diseases, was pregnant and attempted unsafe practices due to a lack of information and access to resources. It was her story and many like hers which has motivated me to do what I can to advocate for reproductive health and rights.

How did your studies here help shape your ambitions?

My supervisor for my thesis, Dr. Dawn-Marie Walker, was incredibly supportive and helped me to be clear about the focus of that work. I studied the disparity of women in health care leadership roles; the figures I used showed that less than 30 per cent of women held medical academic positions in the United Kingdom.

It underlined my belief that women need to be involved in decision making at high level so that you have a greater representation of need when it comes to global health decisions. I believe women have a special perspective to offer to health care leadership and are better in tune with their own health needs.

How did winning the WiSET award impact you?

The WiSET award really did give an extra belief in the importance of championing the work women do for other women.

I must admit I was surprised to win but when it all sank in it gave me the confidence to know that I was on the right track. I think it is vitally important that these platforms exist to celebrate the particular role women play in research and being in positions where they can effect change. Without women in influential positions there are some issues that just wouldn’t make it to the table. It is my job to ensure that women in around the world can have equal opportunities.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I am very much enjoying my work at the moment but my aim has always been to take what I know and make a difference to my home country. I think ultimately my ambition is to become a health minister in my country, Trinidad and Tobago, and really put in place healthcare policy that will make a difference in the lives of the marginalised.