Women in Science: A doctor at Kananbakache health centre, Niger
February 11th, 2020 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It’s an important one for us, because we know dedication and innovation are key to ending hunger once and for all, and we can’t innovate without the full and equal access and participation of society as a whole.
This day serves as an important reminder of our commitment to achieve full and equal access and participation for women and girls, who continue to be excluded from participating fully in scientific research and innovation.
In their homes, communities, health centres, national governments, and global institutions, women’s empowerment plays a crucial role in tackling child malnutrition. Women also play an important part in the research conducted by No Wasted Lives, (a coalition of which Action Against Hunger is a member), to increase prevention and treatment services for children suffering from wasting.
These Women in Science call for changes for the equality girls and boys, for women and men. They believe families in rural areas need to encourage their daughters in the same way as their sons to believe in their skills, and that they can achieve their goals. Likewise, they think that research institutions and humanitarian organisations should apply the gender lens in their own ranks, and make equal representation of men and women in leadership positions a priority. Strong role-models are needed to bring more women into the scientific field. We couldn’t agree more.
Strong role models like Dyphine Ndenga, who has followed her passion and has been working as a nutrition research officer on the COMPAS study (Combined Protocol for Acute Malnutrition Study) in Nairobi for the International Rescue Committee. In this research study supported by No Wasted Lives (of which Action Against Hunger is a member), the team is testing simplified and unified protocols for the treatment of both severe and moderate acute malnutrition.
Dyphine grew up in Sigira, which is a remote village in Kenya. She is the fourth oldest in a family of six children. Her three older brothers had the advantage in terms of education where she grew up. While she was in school, she earned many academic achievements and was able to enroll in a course in Food Science and Nutrition at Moi University in Nairobi.
Her parents helped her financially to complete the course but couldn’t support her beyond her diploma because they had to help her younger brother go through school as well. Dyphine is extremely grateful to her parents for their support, which she didn’t take for granted as she came from a community where supporting a girl’s education was not embraced; instead it was common for women to get married at an early age.
“The sacrifices that my family had done to see me in school gave me the strength to keep pursuing my career and prove to society that it was the right thing to educate girls.”
In Kenya, there are still few female role models. Dyphine says that she is often exposed to competition rather than mentoring support from other women. She talks of many peers who discouraged her from achieving her academic goals and has also seen a lot of women around her who have succumbed due to hard times and frustrations.
Despite all these barriers, she continues to be encouraged by her family; “My mother always tells me that one day I will get where I want to be as long as I believe and work towards it.” For the future, Dyphine hopes to establish a nutrition centre with other skilled professionals, such as medical officers, nutritionists and physiotherapists, to dedicate their services to malnourished children.
So, on February 11th, join us in the celebration of women like Dyphine, and call on the global community to fulfill their pledge to the Sustainable Development Goals, to achieve equal access for women and girls to education, health care, work representation in political and economic decision-making by 2030.
To read more about Women in Science, click here.