African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) has unveiled a comprehensive strategy spanning 2023 to 2027, with the aim of empowering African women scientists and advancing gender equality in agricultural research and policy. The transformative initiative was launched during AWARD’s annual Steering Committee meeting in Nairobi, leveraging the organization's 15 years of experience in championing diversity in agricultural research.
The strategy primarily focuses on training, mentoring, and empowering women researchers to ascend to leadership roles within agricultural research and development. AWARD seeks to create a sustained pipeline of emerging women scientists, intending to shape policies that account for the distinct needs and circumstances of both genders.
Dr. Susan Kaaria, Director of AWARD, highlighted the persistent under-representation of women scientists in African agricultural research, emphasizing the need for transformative action. The strategy's three pillars—investing in individuals, strengthening institutions, and influencing the environment—form the foundation of its mission to bring about a profound transformation in agricultural research.
The strategy outlines seven key goals, including increased representation of women in leadership positions, adoption of gender-responsive policies by institutions, and greater awareness and utilization of evidence on gender responsiveness in agricultural research and development.
AWARD plans to collaborate with continental, national, and institutional governance systems to cultivate an agricultural research ecosystem more responsive to the unique challenges faced by African women in the agri-food sector.
Having successfully benefited 1,872 scientists from 26 African countries to date, AWARD's fellowships have seen almost 60 per cent of recipients progress into leadership positions. The strategy builds on this success, intending to level the gender playing field and address the existing gap from laboratory to farmland.
USAID, a longstanding partner of AWARD, commends the organization's contributions and commitment to breaking barriers for women in agricultural research. AWARD's approach aligns with the broader goal of ensuring agricultural innovation equally benefits men and women.
Despite comprising a third of all researchers, women represent only 12 per cent of national science academy memberships and typically receive smaller research grants. AWARD's strategy seeks to address these disparities, fostering a greater number of empowered female researchers to drive positive change in agricultural science and policies.
With this new strategy, AWARD aims to fulfil the promise of enhanced gender equality in the agricultural sector, fostering a more inclusive and innovative future.
Article by Jed Mwangi