“Our single minded stories about gender make us forget the tremendous stories carried by men!”
These were the words of Dr Wanjiru from AWARD fellowship as she gave a key not address at a dinner organised by RUFORUM for key stakeholders and partners. AWARD is a career development program that strengthens research and leadership skills in women scientists. It is the African Women in Agricultural Research and development.
“What kind of world is possible if we stopped thinking about gender being just women?” Dr Wanjiru asked.
And true to that, there has been a lot of talk on gender but firstly it is mainly and if not only about the women. Secondly there is no acknowledgment of the role played by the fathers to the young men and women. She went on ahead to share her story as a young graduate student in Minnesota. It is then that she realized that people did not expect her to be studying a PHD as an African woman. That realization helped her then to understand the burden that she had as a woman in being able to articulate herself as an African and a woman. The burden that she has was to bring pride not just her household back at home but her family up to the 3rd and 4th generation.
Not every woman has such an opportunity. And this is why we find ourselves in situations where organizations are saying: ‘We could not hire a woman for this post because there was none that was qualified’. However if we are deliberate to equip women with the skills needed, then this attitude should soon dissolve.
Capacity building for women is still lacking on the continent and Dr Wanjiru believes that it is a problem that needs to be taken care of. This is also a gap that AWARD to working very hard to fill.
‘We are on our way to making the Africa Rising story real, but innovation is not going to happen on empty stomachs’-Dr Wanjiru said. Which is why we need to feed our children and the people on the continent. Eradication of poverty and hunger needs to come first before we think about urging people to work. Nothing is going to get accomplished when people are not being fed. This is something that we probably ignore, especially when we are talking about agriculture.
Partnerships and strategic relationships are also very key. For strong African for African, by African institutions and initiatives to thrive: there is need to have such because they also keep us accountable to our mission and vision of the Africa that we dream of and want to become. But first we must figure out how to put food on the table and this is what RUFORUM is trying to do.
The evening ended with an MOU being signed between AWARD and RUFORUM for a partnership that will see both organizations help women in Agriculture in the best way that they know how.