Disappointing lack of representation from Arab countries

April 24, 2013

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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Arab women scientists mourn the loss of Syrian researcher

April 24, 2013

Rehab Abd Almohsen

Rehab Abd Almohsen
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


While the armed conflict in Syria is closing its second year, a gathering of more than 100 Arab women scientists in Kuwait take this as chance to remember the loss of their Syrian colleague, scientist Ahlam Imad who were assassinated by armed groups in June 2011.

The professor at the Faculty of Petrochemical Engineering Faculty at al-Baath University in Homs was killed when a group of gunmen broke into her family house and shot her down along with five of her family members, including three children.

“She was one of the active members of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World [OWSD] and just before she died she was about to establish a national chapter of OWSD in Syria,” Rokshana Ismail, chemistry professor in Aden University told the attendees of the International conference on Women in Science and Technology in the Arab Countries   (21-23 April), in Kuwait City.

Imad is not the only scientist that was killed during the last two years in Syria, a nuclear scientist Aws Abdul Karim Khalil assassinated in Homs in September 2011, the science professor and missiles expert Nabil Zougheib was killed with his wife and two sons on 21 July 2012 in Damascus, Issa Al Khouli, head of Hamish military hospital was killed in Damascus in February 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.


Rising from the ashes of revolution: women scientists in Yemen

April 23, 2013

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.


Leadership role models ‘lacking’ for Arab women scientists

April 22, 2013

Nehal Lasheen

Nehal Lasheen
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net



Female Arab scientists are still under-represented in key positions and in many departments, according to Rowaida Al-Ma’aitah, a professor at the Jordan University of Science and Technology, Amman.

“Although women scientists in the Arab world have leadership qualifications, the lack of female scientists in leadership positions limits our influence,” she says. “Women advance more slowly than men into academic leadership positions.”

Some of the most important barriers to leadership for women in academia, in Al- Ma’aitah’s opinion, are the lack of access to career advice, mentoring and socialising for women faculty; as well as invisible factors that keep women from rising to the top.

Al- Ma’aitah says she has personally experienced discrimination. She told attendees of the International conference on Women in Science and Technology in the Arab Countries (21-23 April), in Kuwait City, that she was a new manager when one of her male employees told her that there was “no way” that he was going to work “under a female manager”.

“I told him, do whatever you want because I am staying,” she says. “And after a few months he saw my performance and the difference I had made, and he appreciated me very much since then.”

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.


Looking for real solutions for Arab women scientists

April 19, 2013

Rehab Abd Almohsen

Rehab Abd Almohsen
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net



Fostering women’s contribution to science and technology and pursuing careers in science are among the topics that will be discussed during the International Conference on Women in Science and Technology in the Arab region.

The conference takes place in Kuwait next week (21-23 April). It brings women in the Arab countries together, with high hopes that this will be a step forward in building a real network among female scientist.

This type of meetings is not the first in the region: in September 2009 another three day meeting toke place in Dubai in UAE under a slogan ‘Arab Women in Science and Technology: Empowerment for the Development of the Arab World’.

Also in January 2007 Kuwait hosted ‘Women Leaders in Science, Technology, and Engineering’ conference, bringing female science leaders from all over the region for establishing new professional and mentoring relationships.

This time the conference will highlight topics related to science and technology, health and the environment as well as gender issues and leadership.

The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research is organizing the event in collaboration with the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World.

According to a recent study done by the Economist Intelligence Unit, more Arab women than men are now enrolling for science degrees at university — and completing the courses successfully. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women accounted for 73 per cent of the bachelor’s degrees in science in 2010.

So obviously Arab female don’t lack the passion for studying science, but as the study suggested, initiatives are needed to motivate women scientists to participate in the workforce.

The biggest challenge for this conference will be putting a real action plan and suggesting practical solutions that will survive after the conference.

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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