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The African Research Academies For Women; Bridging The Gender Gap in African Scientists

by Milicent Atieno

The African Research Academies For Women; Bridging The Gender Gap in African Scientists

The African Academies for Women (ARA-W) is an organization whose mission is to encourage more African women to take up STEM education and reduce the gender inequality in STEM careers. They intend to achieve this by creating summer research opportunities for undergraduate female students, in order to spark an interest in research in the upcoming generation. The organization was pitched at the CGI University this year in Arizona and is currently being sponsored and supported by the President Bill Clinton Global Initiative.

ARA-W was founded by Kwadwo Sarpong, from Emory University and his friend Shadrack Frimpong from the University of Pennsylvania together with a team of university students from pharmacy, medical and other undergraduate studies. ARA-W has also partnered with Research Institutes in Africa,and they are on the road to solidify their first academy; the Ghana Research Academy for Women. They have obtained support from the University of Ghana Noguchi Institute for Medical Research.



Through the Ghana Research Academy for Women, ARA-W intends to bridge the gender gap in African scientists, by creating summer research opportunities for the undergraduate women to spark an interest in research, in the upcoming generation. The female undergraduate students who will take part in this imitative will participate in an 8 week summer research internship where taken through several workshops and lectures, visit hospitals to collect data on the prevalent diseases in Ghana. At the end of the summer, students will be required to present their research findings at a symposium with faculty and other students present.

Ghana Research Academy for Women mission is two-fold; to identify problems in the society (technical, social and medical) and find sustainable, lasting solutions to these problems through sponsorships and partnerships form organizations in Ghana and abroad. Beyond the summer research academy, the organization envision graduates of the program going on to serve as ambassadors and mentors to future participants. The goal is to have a life long relationship with students who pass through their program by connecting them with established women in science both in the USA and Ghana. In a bid to nurture, guide, encourage and monitor them in both their academic journey and career goals. The organization will be glad to have students refer to them as a major influence in their successful journey to a STEM career.

Innov8tiv caught up with the founding member of ARA-W to find out, their aspirations that lead to them taking part in this initiative. The following is what they had to say:

The African Research Academies For Women; Bridging The Gender Gap in African ScientistsKwadwo Sarpong: “I always knew I wanted to make a change, especially in Africa. Yet, blending the amenity of my dreams and the adversity that comes with how to begin that change is where I fell short. Therefore, you can imagine my happiness when a dialogue between the cofounders and I started the idea about a research program in Africa. Many people dream of making a change some way, somehow, and for me I’m eagerly certain that ARA-W is where I want to begin.  I personally believed and still believe that opening up research opportunities in STEM fields for African women is one of the most effective ways to help Africa. It can spark learning and creativity while opening up new discoveries in terms of cures and treatments for various diseases. We are in 21st century. And the aim for girls in the age of information and technological advances should not just be to become “submissive wives and mothers” as tradition would have one believe. There is a whole realm of opportunities outside cooking, sewing and household duties. There is a world out there willing to challenge the minds of young females, to compel them to question and inspire them to conjure up brilliant ways to help our society—and to me, that world is STEM.

I know there is a saying that behind every successful man is a woman. However, being involved in ARA-W has led me to think differently. Why can’t that quotation be reversed to show parity? The greatest thing would be to also see African men in our society, passionately encouraging our women to become their very best. Accordingly, I want to take the first step in doing that by being actively involved in the African Research Academies for Women.”

The African Research Academies For Women; Bridging The Gender Gap in African ScientistsShadrack Frimpong: After researching in laboratories both in the U.S and in Switzerland, I was thrilled to find that many of my fellow undergraduate researchers were women. Through their exposure to research in the summer programs, they had developed a genuine love for research and yearned to own their personal laboratories so as to make groundbreaking discoveries in their own countries, in the future. That spoke to me a lot, and I was consequently inspired to provide such a similar exposure opportunity for my fellow Ghanaian friends who are women. As a quickly advancing country, Ghana will definitely need the services of these women in research and academia to fuel a holistic development.

zMelissa Adomako: “Opening doors for women to participate in STEM research is essential in building excellent health care systems in Africa. I had increasingly developed a keen interest in maternal and child health and the essential role nutrition plays in the prevention of diseases. Thus, when the idea for ARA-W came up, its sublime correspondence with my passion allowed me to eagerly affirm it.  As a woman, inspiring my fellow women to strive for their best was easy, something I aspired to do. However, thinking of the long-term effects that this research organization could have on the prevention of diseases on our continent, made it even easier for me to join in the idea.

I have high hopes that this organization will revolutionize so much in terms of innovation in Africa. And I love the idea of having women leading that innovation. It makes me glad to be part of an organization that will foster such an idea”.

The African Research Academies For Women; Bridging The Gender Gap in African ScientistsDorris Appiah: “As a first year medical student who has a special interest in research due to past research experiences in Biology, the idea of a research program for African women made me remarkably happy. Coming from a place where a vast majority of individuals had no access to healthcare or reliable transportation to see a doctor, to me, the African Research Academy for Women symbolized modification.  Ours as Africans has not been the easiest: there have been negative incidents of intolerance and historic socio-cultural disturbances. Thus, I believe that the African Research Academies for women is a way for us women to become pioneers in helping Africa rise from that. Indulging in the opportunities that STEM research offers will lead to answers and swift transformation of the African continent.  In my opinion the main aim of science to is discover—that is why I love research.

I hope all the women who participate in the African Research Academies for women will find pleasure in discoveries which could directly in improve human welfare on our continent. I look at the whole mission of this organization and it makes me happy to be a founding member.”

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