Saira Shameem has a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Otago, New Zealand and a post-graduate diploma in health science from Edith Cowan University, Australia. She is currently enrolled in the 2016/2017 Master of Science in Public Health for Development at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Saira has been working in the field of human rights, women’s rights and the right to health for the last 27 years in various capacities, spanning community mobilization, public education, organisational development, advocacy as well as national and international policy development. She was the Executive Director of a regional women’s health and rights organisation called the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) for seven years, where she was able to support the work of over 25 grassroots advocacy organisations across 17 countries, despite challenging local conditions including civil war, natural disasters and communal violence.
Between 2010 and 2013, she was the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Group for the South East Asian Community Observatory (SEACO) Demographic & Health Surveillance Site located in Segamat, Malaysia. She has spent over 12 years within the UN system, and presently heads the United Nations Population Fund country office in Malaysia where she manages a complex programme addressing persistent pockets of marginalization within a middle-income country context. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her partner who runs an online, award-winning political news website called Malaysiakini, and four children, including a pair of twin girls.