The proportion of women studying science is low due to gender inequality in many countries. Because of this, girls are often discouraged from pursuing careers in the sciences. Here, we celebrate the achievements of the women who overcame this adversity through their passion for science.
Maathai was a Kenyan political and environmental activist. She grew up in a small village, and her father supported the family working as a farmer. She made history in 1971 by becoming the first woman in East Africa to earn a doctorate degree. In 1977, she started and led the Green Belt Movement, which aims to counter deforestation. This encouraged women to plant trees and conserve their local environments. She won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on environmental sustainability.
FRANCISCA NNEKA OKEKE
Okeke is a Nigerian Professor of Physics at the University of Nigeria and the first female leader of the university’s faculty of physical sciences. Her curiosity for science stemmed from a young age, where she would wonder about the changing colour of the sky and the ability of aeroplanes to fly in the atmosphere. She won the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award in 2013 for her significant contributions to the understanding of climate change. She also advocated to further the inclusion of women in the university’s department, which led to the employment of three new female faculty members.
Mungherera was a Ugandan psychiatrist and served as president of the Uganda Medical Association. She believed that women could and should have a bigger role in their national medical associations. She founded the Association of Uganda Women’s Medical Doctors and helped to establish other organisations.
Bedwei is a Ghanaian software engineer and entrepreneur. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder, from a young age. However, this has not stopped her from achieving greatness. At 15 her parents noticed her passion for computers and enrolled her for a computing course at a local school. She later obtained a degree in Computer Science from a UK university. Recently, she co-founded Logiciel, a mobile banking company.
It is clear women can be just as successful as men in the sciences if they were given equal opportunities. If you have a strong enough passion for science, you too can achieve great things.