A Kenya-based health researcher says participating in AESA’s Proposal Development Workshop enabled her to successfully obtain her first grant.

Dr Pauline Bakibinga, an Associate Research Scientist at the Nairobi-based African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) submitted proposals during the two years of her postdoctoral fellowship at APHRC and they were turned down.

She did not hesitate to participate when she learned that AESA was organising a workshop to train early career researchers in grant proposal writing. The Uganda-born primary care physician and researcher was one of the 28 scientific investigators to take part in the Proposal Development Workshop held in July 2015 in Ethiopia. There she learnt several useful tips that would be useful in preparing proposals for funding.

“As a scientist you never take into account that your proposal could be reviewed by a wide range of people and so we get too technical. So I learnt that I need to use language that captures a wide range of audiences for my proposal to catch the eye of a reviewer,” she says.


Dr Bakibinga had been developing a proposal to the County Innovation Challenge Fund for Kenya (DFID funded) before the workshop. She used what she learnt to redraft and repurpose her proposal, leading to her winning her first grant worth £250,000 in October 2015.

Bakibnga’s project seeks to develop and demonstrate how a mobile phone application can be used to enable Community Health Volunteers to identify risks facing pregnant women, new mothers and newborns, and make timely and correct decisions on referral for cases that need intervention in Nairobi’s slums.

The Community Health Volunteers conduct routine home visits and sometimes find patients with illnesses the volunteers don’t understand. By logging the symptoms into the application, they would know what to do, either to manage the patient from home or refer them to the health centre.

“Most of these health workers have not gone beyond primary or secondary level education. They have to refer to a book to find out what it is, which is both time consuming and can make them look incompetent before their clients.

“With the mobile app, the health workers can fill in the symptoms and get a score which would indicate the next course of action. This would be an efficient way of working for them,” the PhD graduate from the University of Bergen in Norway says.

Her stroke of luck continued after the AESA workshop with a second US$10,000 that she won from her Alma Mater at the US’ Brown University (Brown International Advanced Research Institute), to study Intimate Partner Violence among older persons aged 60 and above in Nairobi’s Viwandani and Korogocho slums.

“Another lesson that I took from the workshop was the need to show that my proposal is both innovative and responsive to current problems.”