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Young Scientists’ Conference on Women Empowerment held

TWAS-ROSSA partnered with the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) South African National Chapter; GenderInSITE and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS) to host the 2015 Young Scientists’ Conference. The conference was held from 16-18 September 2015. Delegates attending the conference represented universities, science councils, research institutions and African science academies of the continent. Thirty-six oral and 24 poster presentations were delivered by young scientists.

The theme for the conference was Inspiring Change Post-2015: The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation in Empowering Women in Africa. Sub-themes were:

  • Promotion of Gender Equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
  • Feminisation of Poverty.
  • Women and Health.
  • Women and Leadership.

The conference aimed to analyse the role of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in empowering women in Africa; scientifically evaluate key challenges facing women in Africa and their implications; and to identify future research needs along with possible solutions that can be main-streamed into science, society and policymaking. The conference provided a platform for young scientists to share information on their research fields, whilst providing an opportunity for networking and engaging with key stakeholders in the National System of Innovation (NSI).

The conference was attended by 135 participants, including young scientists from: Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom (sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry), Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In her keynote address, South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor, urged young women scientists to make use of the numerous international research and training opportunities offered by the DST and called upon conference participants to ensure that their work remained relevant to addressing the numerous challenges of poverty and disease facing the country and the continent. The Minister of Women in the Presidency, Ms Susan Shabangu, addressed the delegates about the need for introspection on the policies and programmes that were being put in place to determine whether they were translating into appropriate interventions for socio-economic transformation. Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation at the University of South Africa, delivered a keynote address on Leadership: the Invisibility of African Women and the Masculinity of Power.

The NRF, ASSAf (SAYAS & OWSD), TWAS, The Conversation, DST-Horizon 2020, and GenderInSITE exhibited their work throughout the conference. On the last day of the conference, these organisations and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) had the opportunity to interact with participants during a capacity enhancement session.

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