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Rome event puts women in science in the spotlight: OWSD Short Films Showcase

September 29, 2023

In a captivating event held in Rome, OWSD's Short Films Showcase brought women in science into the spotlight, celebrating their remarkable contributions and achievements on a global scale. This showcase illuminated the extraordinary journeys of women scientists from developing countries, emphasizing their vital roles in driving scientific progress and development initiatives.

In an enchanting evening at the esteemed Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (ANL) in Rome, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) illuminated the outstanding contributions of women to science and development worldwide. The event, titled "Women. Science. Development. Short Films Showcase from Africa and around the world," was a powerful reflection of the immense potential of women to drive transformation through scientific innovation. 

The event, more than a celebration, served as an opportunity to extend outreach and fundraising efforts in Italy, strengthening the bonds between Italy and OWSD. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with their patronage, played a pivotal role in making this event a reality.

Three mesmerizing short films from the OWSD Visions series took center stage, accompanied by a BBC production shining a spotlight on an OWSD Fellow. These films did more than recount biographies; they wove captivating narratives, placing storytelling power firmly in the hands of the protagonists.

Prativa Pandey, a chemist and biotechnologist from Nepal who is extracting useful bioactive compounds from citrus fruit waste, illuminated the screen with her scientific journey. Dr. Pandey is also a 2019 OWSD Early Career Fellow and with her important reserach is creating green technologies to extract highly valuable bio-active compounds from waste citrus fruits peels that can be used as a key ingredient in pharmaceutical, nutraceuticals, and cosmeceuticals industries. She also leads a technology company, and its skincare company spin-off seeking to highlight the richness of the Nepalese culture and diversity in a combination of science, people, and plants. From the heart of the Congo Republic, physicist Maryse Nkoua Ngavouka shared her awe-inspiring story of developing hybrid grid systems for sustainable energy, while molecular cell biologist Rana Basem Dajani from Jordan inspired with her work on the genetics of ethnic populations. The BBC film featured Elizabeth Bandason, an OWSD Fellow from Malawi, whose compelling story resonated deeply with the audience: when her father died, she was spurred on a mission to address an alternative to chemical pesticide use.

OWSD's Visions series is more than just a showcase; it's the result of a groundbreaking training program designed by OWSD film consultant Nicole Leghissa. This program empowers aspiring filmmakers in developing countries, equipping them to craft high-quality films that spotlight local women scientists, all with limited resources. It's part of a broader storytelling initiative, aimed at amplifying the voices of women scientists, challenging stereotypes, increasing visibility, and advancing gender equality in science and technology.

Professor Alberto Quadrio Curzio, President Emeritus of ANL and OWSD Ambassador, delivered the Opening Address and conveyed warm regards from Maria Tripodi, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. 

Prof. Quadrio Curzio's heartfelt endorsement of OWSD deeply touched the audience: "Education and science are crucial for human development, giving everyone a chance at a better life. Science is not only about academic positions; it's about connecting education, health, and civilization. OWSD's unique initiative embodies this vision, and I'm honored to be an ambassador". His words resonated profoundly, underscoring OWSD's unwavering commitment to advancing women in science and development. 

In addition to the short film presentations, the event also featured an engaging open discussion with the public. Distinguished panelists, including Tonya Blowers, OWSD Coordinator, Nicole Leghissa, OWSD Visions project coordinator and filmmaker, and Mary Adjepong, OWSD 2022 Early Career Fellow from Ghana, provided invaluable insights and perspectives. Dr. Adjepong, who was in Italy for other institutional events related to her fellowship, offered insightful commentary on the films and underscored the critical role of OWSD's support for early career researchers like herself.


The event attracted diplomats from South Africa, Cuba, Congo Republic, Jordan, and a host of representatives from other ministries and other UN organizations. The presence of academia and civil society underscored a shared commitment to empower women in science and technology, promote gender equality, and advance the global development agenda.

As the curtains fell on this Short Films Showcase, it left attendees inspired and determined to champion the cause of women in science and development. OWSD's pivotal role in advancing gender equity and empowering women scientists worldwide was more evident than ever. With an array of programs supporting women scientists in developing countries throughout their careers, OWSD is building communities, fostering mobility, developing capacity, and enhancing visibility. These initiatives empower women through mentorship, training, and networking, enabling them to lead in science and advocate for gender equality in research and technology.

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