08 Mar 2023
In the past few years, the World in general, and Africa in particular, have been challenged by successive crises: the significant impact of frequent droughts, the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, and more recently the soaring inflation of cereals and commodity prices. As a consequence, instability threatens more and more countries in Africa. To address these various challenges, more than ever, the world needs science, and science needs women.
Since 2010, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the L’Oréal Foundation of the French industrial group specializing in cosmetics, reward each year twenty initiatives led by women scientists in sub-Saharan Africa for the implementation of the United Nations’ fifth sustainable development goal (SDG5) on gender equality. Twenty initiatives led by women scientists in sub-Saharan Africa to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5) on gender equality.
Through the 13th edition of the women in Science Young Talents Awards for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Foundation L’Oréal and UNESCO reaffirm their commitment to women in science. This programme is dedicated to accompanying women scientists on their academic journey, increasing their visibility, and nurturing their careers. Each year, 20 African women researchers are rewarded for the excellence of their scientific work. These 15 doctoral students and 5 post-doctoral students embody the diversity and potential of science of the continent through their careers and research topics. They represent a source of hope for the future of our World.
Whether they are mathematicians, physicists, biologists or civil engineers, each of the laureates has gone through a journey paved with obstacles. Some of these difficulties are inherent to the world of scientific research in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as the lack of financial and technical resources. Other obstacles are specific to being a woman in science: gender discrimination and stereotypes, lack of female role models or support, and a challenging balance between professional and personal life. Thus, these women scientists have had to combine perseverance and determination in order to reach their goals and establish themselves in fields still confined to men.
Selected for their scientific excellence among 425 applications by a jury chaired by Professor Aggrey Ambali (Director of Technical Cooperation and Programme Financing at the African Union Development Agency, AUDA-NEPAD), the 2022 Young Talents make the 16 countries from which they come proud. They were celebrated and honored at the Awards Ceremony in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on 1 December 2022.
The jury was particularly impressed by Ange Cynthia Umuhire from Rwanda, doctoral student specializing in Astronomy and Space sciences has distinguished herself through her work on "space weather prediction and forecast”. Despite its various applications in agriculture, communication, surveying, epidemic and pandemic predictions among many others, the field is new especially in Africa. Mrs. Cynthia revealed that her interest in astronomy and space sciences was primarily driven by curiosity.
The Regional Young Talents Awards for Sub-Saharan Africa
The purpose of the young Talents Awards is to support women scientists in the pursuit their careers, and more generally to promote and strengthen the role of women in science. The 20 awarded researchers will receive financial support to help them conduct their research project (grants of €10,000 for doctoral students and €15,000 for post-doctoral students). However, the programme goes beyond financial support: it also offers participants an opportunity to receive comprehensive leadership training. The purpose of the training is to contribute to the personal and professional development of the Young Talents and enable them to break the glass ceiling, becoming new female role models in science. In December 2022, the 20 Talents will join the community of 181 female researchers who have been supported and honored by the For Women in Science Young Talents Programme in Sub-Saharan Africa since its launch in 2010. Initiated in 2000 in partnership with UNESCO, the Foundation L’Oréal’s For Women in Science national and regional Young Talents programs provide nearly 250 endowments each year in more than 110 countries. These awards provide Young Talents with specific support at a pivotal moment in their careers.