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Water Woman Award for a Lifetime Contribution - Dr Fiona Zakaria

Water Woman

We make this Water Woman Award in recognition of the lifetime contribution of Dr Fiona Zakaria.

Dr Zakaria, who passed away in December 2022, was a rising star of public health engineering research, with over ten years of research experience.  Fiona was an active part of the WASH Research group at the University of Leeds for the past five years, working extensively to develop new approaches to costing of urban sanitation and also helping to launch groundbreaking research on methane emissions from sanitation.

Prior to joining the University, Fiona completed her PhD at IHE Delft, which explored user acceptability of the eSOS® Smart Toilet.  She led fieldwork studies in the Philippines which resulted in five ground-breaking publications; her work made significant contributions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - funded Reinvent the Toilet programme.  Her practical fieldwork skills, and legendary patience when working with colleagues and informants on the ground was built on several years of work in emergency WASH response and in the sanitation sector in Malaysia.  When she joined the CACTUS programme at Leeds she was instrumental in building up a ground-breaking database of project costs information and was a member of the authorship team for two recent publications which have already been widely cited.  She presented her work at major conferences and in 2021 won a scholarship to attend the HydJo workshop at the Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid.

Well beyond her academic contribution, she has played a pivotal role in building collegial collaboration in the school and beyond.  Masters students from the WASH programme valued her support and encouragement and several of them benefited from her experience and support while on fieldwork, across Africa and East Asia.  Internationally she had a broad and far reaching network of friends and colleagues.

Those who worked closely with her, who shared an office, or travelled to remote communities with her, had reason to be grateful to Fiona for her kindness, her generosity and her good humour.  She was a team player, and an embodiment of the values of inclusivity, equity and partnership of water@leeds.

Thank you to Professor Barbara Evans and Dr Paul Hutchings, School of Civil Engineering for writing this tribute to Fiona.