It is with great sorrow that we received the heart-breaking news that our Sister, Sebalda Leshabari, has passed away so suddenly and prematurely. We have known Sebalda for two decades and have collaborated with her through the Norwegian NUFU and NOMA programmes. She started her PhD at Centre for International Health at the University of Bergen in 2001, and very soon became a treasured part of the research environment for her wits, her big laughter, her stories, her great engagement in nursing, midwifery and women’s health, and not the least her warmth. Everybody loved Sebalda.
During her PhD on HIV and infant feeding she became a consultant to the WHO and actively contributed to the WHO revised infant feeding guidelines of 2006 which put breastfeeding as the first infant feeding choice for HIV positive women. This was a matter close to her heart and a game changer in the field of mother to child transmission of HIV.
After the completion of her PhD Sebalda has been a major partner at MUHAS. She has represented continuity in the academic collaboration and has been a tremendous resource in project collaboration, as a facilitator for student exchange with The University of Applied Sciences of Western Norway and as a co-supervisor for Ma and PhD students from the University of Bergen. She was key to the regional collaboration to strengthen and establish master programmes in nursing and midwifery at MUHAS, Makerere and Addis Ababa University. With her comprehensive network and determination, she has ensured progress for our joint research projects as well as for individual students.
Sebalda was a professional, but also an activist, a woman working for change. Firmly based in her profession, she has been fighting for women’s rights to safe motherhood, for sound and sustainable infant feeding and for her profession as a nurse and midwife. Her engagement was admirable and formidable.
Her passing away leaves us at great loss, but through her continuous devotion to collaboration she has laid down a solid foundation that we can build on. We owe her that.
Her passing is also a tremendous personal loss to many of us. She became a close friend, always supporting us and standing by us. It is hard to imagine Tanzania without her.
Our thoughts go to her family, colleagues, and to her friends worldwide.
May her soul rest in peace.
Colleagues and friends at Centre for International Health, University of Bergen and Western Norway University of Applied Sciences