Disappointing lack of representation from Arab countries

Nehal Lasheen

Nehal Lasheen
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net

Attending a conference under the title of ‘Women in Science and Technology in the Arab Countries’,  I expected to find a distinct and remarkable presence of female and male scientists from most of the Arab countries.

I therefore felt a bit down when I found that many countries were not represented, particularly countries from the Gulf that have begun to have effective impact on science field in the region, such as like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

While the number of attendees did not exceed 100, more than 20 per cent of them were from countries outside the Arab region, including India and Pakistan.

When I asked the organisers about this, they replied that they had contacted many institutions in most of the Arab countries, but had received a weak response and not much enthusiasm towards the conference.

This might reflect the lack of support that many women scientists in Arab countries face, particularly with obtaining leadership positions.

On a more positive note, a high number of Arab women scientists were persent in the conference sessions.

However, this highlighted the very weak presence of male scientists – the hall was packed with women, while you could barely find one or two men and there was only one male among the speakers.

The situation raised some laughter during the sessions, with women pointing out that although “there is no science of women and science of men”, male scientists appeared to have kept their distance.

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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