By Farai Matiashe in Vienna, Austria
African nations need to introduce policies that promote gender parity in the science field and introduce the subject to girls at grassroots level to promote their role in development, an expert has said.
Speaking at a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation Science and Technology conference at Hofburg Palace, Austria, on Monday, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) executive director Romain Murenzi said science begins at a tender age.
“Women cannot wake up and start science at PhD level. Science should start at primary level, going to secondary level and then higher and tertiary education,” he said.
“Science is not done just in schools. Our problem (in developing nations) is that they do not see health, environment and agriculture as science.”
Murenzi, a former Rwanda Science and Technology minister, said African governments should put in place policies that encourage women to venture into science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“If you look at the problem in terms of gender parity, women, when they are having science careers, it corresponds with child-bearing roles. So, there is need for policies (such as the one) in countries like Sweden, where men go on paternity leave to help their wives in raising children,” he said.
The TWAS executive director said the knowledge gap between developing and developed nations should be closed to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals because science was critical in ending challenges, such as climate, poverty and energy insecurity facing Africa.
He said most developing nations have fewer than 100 PhD per million, while Africa accounts for only 2% of global research publications, of which most of those are concentrated in South Africa and Egypt.
Responding to a question from NewsDay at the same event, Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) president Jennifer Thomson said to promote women in science, they had programmes running at PhD level.
“We depend on funding. We started at PhD and early career. We have a programme called TWAS. So, if we have more funding we can have more programmes,” she said. “It is through national chapters and the more countries start chapters the more women we can reach.”
OWSD has a chapter in Zimbabwe which aims at promoting women in science and provides mentorship to young girls.