Women Geoscientists: Past Achievements and Future Challenges.
Association of African Women Geoscientists (AAWG)
A three day international conference focusing on the accomplishment of women geoscientists from Africa and the future challenges facing them was held in Cape Town, South Africa from 22-24 October 2002 and drew participants from the following African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Mali.
Participants called on women geoscientists to play key roles mentoring for young geoscientists and to lobby governments to introduce geology to lower classes in schools. Participants identified the following broad areas as priority areas: Capacity building and opportunity for training of women geoscientists; communication and networking; and research. The President of AAWG, in her opening remarks said that sustainable human development would only take place with active involvement of women.
In her opening speech, the South African Minister of Minerals and Energy, Hon. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, highlighted the need to involve women. She noted that it has taken so long for our resources to be fully utilized for the benefit of our nations because of locking out women who are the drivers of our economies. She said it was her pleasure that young geoscientists are redressing the imbalances, and it is only through such efforts that women geoscientist will be able to share experiences, network and grow with the continent. She said scientists in general are known for their lack of solidarity in their activities, but individualistic tendencies especially in developing countries tend to re-invent events and as such do not do any country any good. She urged that women geoscientists work together more and across country borders because geology has no country boundary, and thus we should not have boundaries in our ideas.
The technical sessions of the conference covered the areas of Petroleum and Energy; Geo-sites and Environment; Water; Climatic changes, Small Scale Mining; Research; and Women in Business and Gender.
The session on geo-sites and environment brought out the urgent need for speeding up geo-park and geo-conservation initiatives in Africa. Africa contains some of the most wonderful and disproportionately large percentage of big geological sites, which are of interest to specialists and lay people alike. The other important issue to consider is that of conservation. People tend to destroy what they do not understand, whether accidentally or willfully. Specific importance of geo-tourism for women was noted since already women are well established in the tourism, courtesy and public relations sector.
The second bi-annual general meeting of AAWG was held in the afternoon of the third day of the conference. The highlights of the AGM were:
o The need to develop a website
o The need to intensify members recruitment drive, especially from West Africa
o To review the constitution
o The meeting constituted a geo-networking group that included the following: Martha Mtwali, Flora Mpanju and Emma Msaki (Tanzania), Marian Tredoux (South Africa) and Julian Ong’ondo (Kenya).
o It was agreed that a dollar account, in the name of Association of African Women Geoscientists (AAWG) be opened at the CITY Bank in Nairobi, Kenya. Signatories be: President, Treasurer and Secretary and UNESCO Representative Dr. Thomas Schlueter be the Trustee. UNESCO was requested to provide the seed money to enable the account to be opened.
o It was agreed that the AAWG account in South Africa serves as a holding account until the Nairobi account is opened. Thereafter all the moneys shall be transferred to the Nairobi account.
o The next conference will be held in Kampala Uganda in June 2004