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Sultana, Ms. Farhana

Assistant Scientist
Enteric and Respiratory Infections
Infectious Diseases Division
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“I aim to provide women and girls innovative and complete solutions, so that they can manage menstrual health and hygiene at an affordable price.”

I was working at James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University when Stephen Luby (former Director, Centre for Communicable Diseases at icddr,b), Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, emailed me regarding a job opening in his team. I applied for the job and was selected for the position, and joined icddr,b in 2011.

My major in anthropology has taught me to respect other cultures, their values, norms, and provided me the base to think from an alternative perspective. For example, stigma prevents Bangladeshi women and girls from eating foods enriched with protein during menstruation. Thus, I am currently developing a low-cost nutrient bar with iron, zinc, and calcium supplements made completely with locally sourced ingredients as an alternative to reduce iron deficiency anemia among the young menstruating women in Bangladesh.

Some of my other patentable innovations include The Sultana icddr,b Reusable Cloth Pad, The Sultana Washer and Dryer Bags to facilitate the hygienic maintenance of cloth pads, and The Jute Cellulose-Based Biodegradable Sanitary Pads (in collaboration with Dr. Mubarak Ahamad Khan (Scientific Advisor, BJMC). Currently, I am working to develop a machine to produce jute cellulose-based sanitary pads.

Since 2016 my work on menstrual health and hygiene has demonstrated an outstanding impact on women’s rights and gender equity in Bangladesh. I have been catalysing scientific findings into policy by forming the country’s very first “Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Working Group” and by contributing to the development of the “National Menstrual Hygiene Management Strategy 2021”.

In recognition of my innovation and leadership capabilities, I have received the “WLGH Leadership Fellowship” award to present on Gender Parity at the 2017 Women Leaders in Global Health conference at Stanford University. I have also beenfeatured by national and international media including BBC Health Check Program and was an invited lecturer to different national and international forums. Recently, I have won the grand prize at the 4th Annual Innovations Pitch Competition organised by the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).

Why I work at icddr,b:

icddr,b provides equal opportunity and an environment to learn and grow and to solve public health problems through innovative scientific research. icddr,b trained me on scientific knowledge and skills to explore and implement low-cost, alternative, and innovative technologies to support the menstrual health and hygiene of the women and adolescent girls in Bangladesh.

icddr,b through my innovations has provided me the identity of being recognised nationally and internationally.

Future Plans:

I strive to become a leading global health scientist who develops and implements innovative ideas for positive changes in women and adolescent health and to enrich evidence based research on gender equity and women’s and girls’ empowerment. 

2021 - till date

Adjunct Tutor, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Australia


PhD Candidate, Monash University, Australia

2018 - till date

Assistant Scientist, icddr,b

2015 - 2016

Adjunct Senior Teaching Fellow, James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh


MPH, The University of Melbourne, Australia

2012 - 2017

Research Investigator, icddr,b

2011 - 2012

Senior Research Officer, icddr,b

2010 - 2011

Field Research Officer, James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh

2009 - 2010

Research Assistant, Planning Alternatives for Change (PAC) LLC, Dhaka, Bangladesh

2007 - 2009

Research Assistant, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Bangladesh


MSS in Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

2002 - 2006

BSS in Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh