As the second trench of the Science Granting Council Initiative (SGCI) kicks off, Nigeria has revealed her intention to have women play significant roles and benefit maximally from the initiative.
Speaking during an exclusive chat with Science Nigeria, the coordinator of the initiative in Nigeria, Dr. Mustapha Popoola, revealed that Nigeria would learn from the rich experience of other 15 SGCI participating countries in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure women are mainstreamed in the project implementation.
Other countries participating in the initiative include Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, the most recent addition.
Science Nigeria gathered that data collected from the implementation of the first five-year trench of the initiative launched in 2015 revealed that 62.8 per cent which signified almost two-thirds of research awards went to men. A development that swept women to the sidelines of project implementation.
Popoola, however, assured that in implementing Nigeria’s project which would be handled by Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), women would be given strategic roles.
According to him, since Nigeria is still at the planning stages, this presents a good opportunity to compare notes with other participating countries to make sure she plugs the loopholes and ensure women are mainstreamed.
“I think we are at an advantage since we are currently the last to join the initiative. This gives us ample opportunity to learn from other countries, where they have succeeded or failed and see how we can design our own so we don’t fall into the same loopholes as other countries because we are still at the designing stage. We can be deliberate about the percentage of women and what classes and categories of research they can easily access.
“We can also give them a certain number that they must fill. Thank God that under the National Research and Development Fund (NRDF) part of what we did is working with the Academy of Science, Academy of Social Science, Academy of Letters, among others.
“We need to liberaislise the participation of women in such a way that when we have opportunities and prospects, we can have everyone participate.
“We will now have our own design and an affirmative action about the number of women to benefit. Immediately we mainstream it from the design, that quota will be allocated to the women and that will be of immense support to us as a country,” he said.
Popoola elucidated that the NRDF, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) established in all other part of the world, was created under TETFUND to achieve at least about 80 to 90 per cent improvement in Nigeria’s national GDP through 13 thematic areas.
“So, some of these particular thematic group have women as the helm. For instance, the environment and bioresource thematic group has the president of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), Prof. Braide Ekanem. We have the first vice chancellor, University of Abuja, Prof. Gambo Laraba as a deputy coordinator in governance, social development and internal security and a lot of others like them.
“Many brilliant women professors are already working together with us. So, this is how our own structure is being mainstreamed even at the development stage. We will continue to sustain that.”
Speaking exclusively to our correspondent, Prof. Ekanem opined that the SGCI is a very laudable initiative.
She said if it is successfully operationalised, it will impact positively on development particularly in Africa.
“The Science granting Council Initiative, working with bodies with similar objectives, should prioritise scholarships and grants for women in science to remove the existing gender gap,” she added.