SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
18 May 2017
Volume 18 Issue 5
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SETAC Africa Women’s Event (SAFWE) – Calabar 2017

Beatrice Opeolu, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

African women are faced with gender discriminatory challenges that often limit their ability to reach their full potential. In most cases, the African girl-child is traditionally raised with servitude attributes in preparation for her future roles as a daughter, wife, mother, sister-in-law and daughter-in-law. This practice is thought to be good for her because she then grows strong intellectually, emotionally and physically. She is equipped to be a good time and resources manager by the time she grows into womanhood.

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On the other hand, the male child is usually groomed to grow into a “man” that will assume leadership roles in the future at home and in the community. He will become the “heir” at some point, so investment in his future becomes a family priority.

The very few girls that overcome these traditional barriers enter into very competitive job markets with their male counterparts. The recognition of their achievements is often neglected, and women need to work harder to show their competencies. Personal decisions and issues such as raising children, relationships, sexual harassment, or abuse and health problems are some of the many factors that stifle the professional progress of an average African woman. They are therefore faced with many challenges such as time management, resource availability, resource allocation for personal development, biological clock pressure from family and friends, getting the desired support from partners and spouses, public perception of single women, to name a few.

SETAC Africa women, and perhaps most of their colleagues from other developing economies, are therefore exposed to severe limitations to growth and visibility. Professional growth entails getting the best requisite skills available, access to resources, networking and establishing international collaborations. It requires diligence and goal-setting in order to make some mark in the ever-growing competitive world of science.

To address these challenges, the program committee of the SETAC Africa 8th Biennial Conference is organizing the SETAC Africa Women’s Event (SAFWE) – Calabar 2017. The biennial meeting will be held from 17–19 October in Calabar, Nigeria, and details for SAFWE will be posted on the meeting website as soon as they become available. The theme of the biennial meeting is “Quality of African Environment; The Roles of Science, Industry and Regulators,” and the meeting will draw a diverse group of international scientists, including many women. SETAC Africa has invited three keynote speakers, and one of them is our own Gertie Arts, immediate past president of SETAC Europe and senior researcher in the field of aquatic risk assessment, aquatic ecotoxicology and aquatic ecology at Alterra Wageningen University and Research Centre. She will give a presentation titled “Environmental Risk Assessment: The Missing Gaps in Africa.” Arts’ keynote speech will showcase the immense opportunities potentially available to women scientists as well as challenges they face.

Speakers for SAFWE include Gertie Arts , Tara Sabo-Attwood with the University of Florida and Beatrice Opeolu with Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Each speaker will interact with the audience via presentations, video, activities and a mix of resources. There will be a reflection time that will allow participants to ruminate on practices, personal values and goals in order to map ways forward for women to grow and develop professionally.

Participants will learn about time management, emotional intelligence, spirituality and empathy in the workplace as some of the values that may enhance their fulfilment. The event will provide a platform for women to share their professional and gender-specific experiences. All attendees will be required to map a way forward for personal and professional growth. A relaxing and safe environment will be created for women to discuss women’s issues. The session will demonstrate to participants that they are not alone in the world – every society has its own challenges. Participants will be guided to reflect on their lives and practices and map out ways to overcome fears and grow to their full potential.

It is expected that a cohort of African women scientists will be empowered for greater productivity in their world. Participants will have greater clarity on challenges, strengths and opportunities. Lastly, attendees will set tangible goals that may be measured and reappraised after two years. Participation at the session will cost a mere #5,000 (Nigerian Naira) or $20 (US Dollars), and participants will receive a gift bag at the meeting.

Space is very limited for the event, and acceptance will be on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about SAFWE Calabar 2017, please contact Beatrice Opeolu.

For more information about the SETAC Africa 8th Biennial Meeting, please visit nigeria.setac.org. If you are interested in becoming a SETAC member, visit www.setac.org, and for more information about SETAC Africa, contact Ikechukwu Onwurah, Olawale Otitoju or Beatrice Opeolu.

Author’s contact information: opeolub@cput.ac.za

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