ILRI women in science: What’s changed this International Women’s Day?

8 March is International Women’s Day. ILRI women share their thoughts on what has changed for women in science over the last decade.
Celebrated on 8 March every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) connects women around the world, inspiring them to achieve their full potential ( Three ILRI women share their thoughts on this year’s International Women’s Day.

Zimbabwean veterinary scientist Siboniso Moyo

New book on livestock in developing countriesSiboniso (‘Boni’) Moyo, an animal scientist from Zimbabwe, is ILRI’s regional representative in Southern Africa, based in Maputo, Mozambique. Boni spent her youth fighting for her country’s freedom, which she was forced to leave at an early age. She managed to obtain an MSc in animal husbandry from the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow in 1984 and went on to obtain a PhD in animal science from the University of Pretoria in 1997. She has spent the last 22 years conducting livestock research in Zimbabwe and the region. Married to Polex, a fellow Zimbabwean veterinary surgeon she met in Russia, she is raising three extraordinary daughters and loves making a difference among the poor in her community.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘The number of women in senior management positions in public-sector science has increased. Although their numbers are still too small, this is an improvement over the situation a decade ago.

‘This should encourage young girls to take up science careers. They now have role models. And these women in senior management are now in position to influence policies for gender equity.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘To women in science I say: Encourage girls to take up science in high schools so that they can be enrolled for science subjects at the tertiary level. Mentor the young to grow in this field!

‘To the women in agriculture in the villages and the cities, I say: Keep up your good work! Your contribution is vital for food security and critical for the survival of each and every human being, family and nation. Use this day to acknowledge yourself and to encourage another woman to rise up to the challenges you and others have faced.

Ethiopian plant scientist Segenet Kelemu

Segenet Kelemu, Director of the BecA-ILRI HubSegenet Kelemu, a molecular plant pathologist from Ethiopia, is research director at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Platform, based in Nairobi, Kenya. Segenet graduated with a PhD degree in molecular plant pathology from Kansas State University, USA in 1989, and is a graduate of Montana State University, USA, where she obtained an MSc in plant pathology/genetics in 1984. Before joining ILRI, she was a senior scientist at the International Centre for Tropical Agricultural Research (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia.

Segenet enjoys reading, spending time with her family and investing in the education of resource-poor and very bright young girls. She is married to Arjan Gijsman, a soil scientist and computer modelling expert, and has one daughter, Finote.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘Things are changing positively for women, slowly but surely. Over the last decade we’ve seen an increased number of women leading research teams, as well as more women in senior management positions.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘Women have penetrated and excelled in fields that were largely perceived as male-only areas. The future for women is a lot brighter and lots of progress has been made around the world. We have elected women presidents and leaders in Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Germany and Liberia and many women now hold top positions in universities, companies and national governments.

‘The acceptance and appreciation of female leaders, by both men and women, represents positive change and progress. Those few women who have made it to the top have demonstrated their effectiveness in their jobs. That is paving the way for other women starting down that road.’

Canadian agricultural economist Patti Kristjanson

Patti Kristjanson, Leader, Innovation WorksPatti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist from Winnipeg, one of the coldest places in Canada, leads ILRI’s Innovations Works, based Nairobi, Kenya.

Married to Frank, a fellow scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre, she has a teenage son and daughter, the latter of whom is already on the path to self-determination.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘The biggest positive change is that there’s beginning to be some critical mass in female scientists working on sustainable poverty issues in the developing world.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘Women in science tend to understand the power of dialogue, where diverse people work together towards common understanding. Scientific debate, on the other hand, is oppositional and assumes one person is right.

‘Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions. Debate defends one’s own position as the best solution and excludes other solutions.

‘Women scientists can and will lead the global dialogue on innovative and collaborative solutions to sustainable poverty.

Improving women’s lives and livelihoods through livestock

ILRI is facilitating a global consultation to improve lives and livelihoods through women and livestock. This consultation aims to bring together men and women who are passionate about fighting poverty and improving women’s lives.

Patti Kristjanson is leading the Global Challenge Dialogue on Women and Livestock.

Why have you organized a global consultation on women and livestock?

‘Because it’s time to bring together the best and brightest minds and experience from all over the world to increase the awareness of the importance of livestock to the poor – it is often the only asset a poor woman has.

‘The goal is to come up with creative new collaborations and solutions that empower women and enhance their incomes through innovations related to this key asset.’

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