February 11, 2015
Since 2012, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has provided additional funding to OWSD Fellows to enable them to attend international conferences relevant to their field of research, or to undertake short research visits in other countries, where they can have access to laboratories, equipment and expertise not available in their home countries.
This fund has got off to a very good start with over 58 students attending conferences this year to date. The fund has also been used to send groups of OWSD fellows to attend workshops, significantly increasing the number and visibility of women scientists at such events. These have included a Short Course in Virology organized by the Global Virus Network (GVN), in July, in Baltimore, USA. Four OWSD Fellows from Cameroon, Nigeria (2) and Uganda were selected by GVN to take part in the one-week intensive course on basic, translational, and clinical aspects of viruses of great importance to human health. Nearly 20 leading medical virologists drawn from the ranks of GVN Centers of Excellence gave lectures. The course also included a day of policy-oriented discussions on emerging infectious diseases with science and health policy leaders in Washington, DC.
Similarly, 6 OWSD Fellows were selected to attend the first course on Science Diplomacy jointly organized by TWAS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that took place in Trieste in June. The OWSD alumnae were from Bangladesh, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Yemen.
Peter McGrath, Coordinator of the TWAS science diplomacy programme said: "The contribution of OWSD to this meeting was essential in ensuring that we had a good gender balance among the participants. As young scientists, it was also a good learning experience for them. I was pleased to see that the OWSD graduates were also among those participants who want to be proactive when they return home and to share and promote what they learned during this workshop with their faculty peers and their students."
Individual OWSD Fellows have been using the funds to attend relevant conferences where they can present their findings to an international specialist audience, and increase their networks.
Rissa Niyobuhungiro, from Rwanda, chose to spend her travel fund on a trip to Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, to attend the 5th International Conference on Engineering for Waste and Biomass Valorisation from August 25-28, a conference theme very much in line with her own research, which aims to find alternative clean and cheap fuels for poor vendors in informal settlements by applying Cleaner Production Practices.
Rissa began her OWSD Fellowship in 2010, researching for an MSc in waste management at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Rissa graduated in 2012 and is now continuing her studies (and OWSD Fellowship) at PhD level.
Her work uses two interventions: providing efficient wood stoves and installing a bio-digester for biogas generation to ensure the efficient use of wood and reduce the cost of fuel. "One of the logos I liked most was 'Delivering Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions to Meet the Challenges of Tomorrow' - that just about sums up what I do,” said Rissa, proudly.
It seems the money was very well spent: Rissa was awarded 'Best Student Poster' for her poster entitled: “Biogas production from sheep slaughtering waste (rumen content) under psychrophilic conditions.” You can see Rissa's poster here. Certainly a significant achievement, given that more than 330 oral and poster presentations were given, alongside 429 articles. Rissa first heard that she had won when her name was announced at the Gala dinner. "They saidRissa Niyobuhungiro and I thought, that's me! It was a nice feeling indeed."
Importantly, the number of Africans attending the conference this year increased by 5% (and although this means that African attendance was only 6%, the increase is significant). "Let's hope many more African women will attend next year", said Rissa. "I am thankful to OWSD and my Supervisor for making my attendance at this conference possible. I encourage other OWSD Fellows to take up this special opportunity and use it wisely."