Rising from the ashes of revolution: women scientists in Yemen

Nehal Lasheen

Nehal Lasheen
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


Yemen scores poorly in the fields of science and technology, ranking alongside some of the world’s least developed countries, such as Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan.

But in recent years, Yemen has also produced some distinguished women scientists, according to Rokshana Ismail, professor of chemistry at Aden University, Yemen.

“We do not have specific science policies, like Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and Tunisia, where they have [made] great strides in the field of scientific research” Ismail says.

The scientific community in Yemen is trying to invest in the Arab spring revolution to bring about change without further bloodshed, she adds.

Ismail says there are new policies in the Arab countries that aim to drive fresh insights, and that Yemen should invest in these policies positively through giving priority to scientific research.

“Unfortunately, after the Arab spring revolution, the  funding priority of many funding organisations was to attempt to save and rebuild what had been torn down”, she told attendees at the International conference on Women in Science and Technology in the Arab Countries (21-23 April), in Kuwait City.

For example, if a scientific researcher approaches a funding body with a research proposal, the organisation would reject it because new research is not a priority in the current situation.

In spite of this, 30 per cent of the total number of high school graduates in Yemen specialise in the fields of science and technology. A good share of these students are women, and there are some distinguished women scientists in the country, including Huda Omer Ba Saleem.

Ba Saleem is a Yemeni scientist who has been working to establish a network of women scientists in the Arab world. She was among five researchers to receive the first Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World, an award scheme launched in 2012.

This blog post is part of SciDev.Net’s coverage of International conference on Women in Science and Technology in the Arab Countries which takes place 21-23 April 2013, in Kuwait City, Kuwait. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.

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