Association of African Women Geoscientists “AAWG”
It is noted that during geological meetings, the participation of women geoscientists is typically very limited. This is partly due to the presence of a small number of female graduates on the continent. In order to help to rectify this discrepancy, a decision was taken to form an association in order to encourage women geoscientists to participate in Earth Sciences related conferences and to inform about or become involved in gender issues related to the Earth Sciences. In 1995, at the Nairobi conference of the Geological Society of Africa, the Association of African Women Geoscientists “AAWG” was created.
The development of a continent relies on the availability and the commitment of both men and women. Africa is a natural resources rich continent where there is still both a need and an opportunity to learn from past mistakes in the management of these resources in order to improve the living conditions of its peoples. The AAWG is convinced that it is now becoming urgent for African countries to involve more women in the management of these natural resources to fuel a sustainable socio-economic development.
Objectives of the AAWG
The mission of the AAWG is to highlight and seek solutions to problems faced specifically by women and grassroots communities in Africa in the geosciences; to promote the understanding of Earth Sciences among women on the African continent by encouraging and mobilizing support for education, training and research in order to assist African governments in exploiting the specialized expertise of women personnel in finding solutions for their geoscientists’ resource requirements; to provide a forum for discussion and dissemination of information and cooperation between women geoscientists and associations engaged in African geosciences; to promote environmentally sustainable development of African natural resources by working closely with other stakeholders for the benefit of Africa and the world at large; and to promote, identify and advise on the importance and preservation of geological sites in Africa in collaboration with other stakeholders.
Building on this, the AAWG decided to hold a meeting in 2002 for the purpose of exchanging ideas, discussing results and encouraging women to present their work at scientific conferences. Consequently, the Colloquium of the Association of African Women Geoscientists “CAAWG” was born.
The first colloquium took place in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2002. The second colloquium was held in Kampala, Uganda, in October 2004, the third in El Jadida, Morocco, in May 2006 (Errami, 2006).
The AAWG participated to the promotion of the IYPE by organizing its fourth conference in 2008 in Cairo (Egypt) under the title “Women and the International Year of Planet Earth” (Schlueter, 2008). During discussions following the scientific presentations, it was noted that there is inadequate capacity among African women geoscientists, and that geosciences was not well established in African educational institutions. Furthermore, it was noted that geosciences education in Africa remains underdeveloped and that there is lack of awareness in the community at large of the benefits of geosciences to socio-economical development and environmental management. Therefore, in view of the issues above, the Association adopted the following resolutions:
1. Capacity building for African Women Geoscientists in terms of proposal development, writing and presentation of scientific papers, as well as project preparation, research and other areas as the need arises.
2. Promotion of Geosciences through development of educational and public programmes for local people targeting families and children; as well as through Geosciences education in high schools and universities.
3. Establishment of collaborative research among African Women Geoscientists and varied institutions such as Geological and Geographical Societies to enhance fundraising towards the goal of applied Geosciences and related activities so as to contribute to both socio-economical development and environmental management.
4. Creation and promotion of geosciences awareness, among policy makers and the general public in Africa particularly local communities, on the importance of geoparks, geomusuems, biosphere reserves, geoheritage sites and other important geosciences areas as public tools for conservation and development.
5. Sharing and dissemination of geosciences information to enhance networking opportunities among the Association of African Women Geoscientists members.
The fifth conference of the AAWG will be held in Ivory cost in 2010 under the title “Women and Geosciences for Peace”. A pre-conference meeting will be held in April 2009 in order to launch officially the creation of the AAWG national section of the Ivory Coast. The sixth conference will be held in Cameroon in 2012.
AAWG executive committee
The current AAWG governing council is as follows:- Prof. Ezzoura Errami from Morocco as President, Dr. Joy Obando from Kenya as Vice President, Dr. Tea Juliette from Ivory Coast as Secretary General, Prof. Kmar Ben Ismail Lattrache from Tunisia as Assistant Secretary General, Dr. Beatrice Ketchemen Tandia from Cameroon as Treasurer and Dr. Meseret Teklemariam from Ethiopia as Editor. The regional Representatives are Dr. Monica Omulo from Kenya for East Africa, Inocencia Maculuve from Mozambique for Southern Africa, Gauly Marcelle from Ivory Coast for Western Africa, Dr. Zahia Benaissa from Algeria for North Africa and Prof. Veronique Kanga Kabeyene for Central Africa. The Patron of the Association is Dr. Thomas Schlüter, ex officer in Nairobi UNESCO office.
Conclusion & recommendations
To summarise, we believe that this association trough its objectives, its conferences and related short courses, workshops and field trips represents an opportunity for women geoscientists to interact and share experiences, ideas and knowledge. Hence, the ongoing dynamic shows during the last years, that the leadership roles in Earth Sciences is slowly but surely increasingly being taken by women geoscientists.
We, as representatives of the Association of African Women Geoscientists, believe that the involvement of women in Earth Sciences education and research is a key factor to help Africa resolve its socio-economical problems. Women can play an important role in the sustainable development of their respective countries through their multiple capacities not just as teachers and researchers but also as educated mothers.
Despite the fact that women are working in all society spheres, there is no doubt that sex-stereotyping and discrimination still exists especially in underdeveloped and developing countries where women are the most vulnerable segment of the human society and are the first who suffer from poverty.
Equality between men and women exists when both sexes have equal opportunities, rights and obligations. Good quality of education and capacity-building can allow women to play a key role in the sustainable development. To conclude, we would invite all stakeholders to work hard in order to help rectify this discrepancy.
Errami Ezzoura, 2006. Third Conference of the Association of African Women Geoscientists “Women, Geosciences and Development”. Episodes 29 (4), 293-294.
Schlueter Thomas, 2008. “Women and the International Year of Planet Earth”, the fourth International Conference of the Association of African Women Geoscientists (AAWG), Cairo, Egypt. UNESCO Nairobi Office Bulletin, 1st Issue, 14-15.
Ezzoura Errami, AAWG President
Laboratoire de Géodynamique et Géotechnique, Département de Géologie, Université Chouaïb Doukkali, Faculté des Sciences, BP. 20, 24000 El Jadida, Morocco; Tel: +212668038116; Fax: +212523342187; e.mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.aawg.org (under construction).