IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme celebrated at the Scottish Parliament

30 Oct 2019
Photograph of Michèle Mbo'o-Tchouawou speaking

A reception at the Scottish Parliament this week celebrated the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network's African Schools Outreach Programme and other University of Edinburgh-based work on tackling gender inequality in science in Scotland and internationally.

The outreach programme, which is run in partnership with institutes and organisations across Africa, aims to address the gender imbalance in scientific research. Through the programme, the IVVN, working with the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre, provides women working in veterinary vaccinology in Africa with all the training and resources they need to host their own schools outreach workshops.

The programme is supported by African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and the African Vaccinology Network (AfVANET), with funding from the University of Edinburgh, the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Scottish Funding Council.

The first training sessions for African women scientists taking part in the scheme took place earlier this year. Mobile laboratories in suitcases, containing everything needed to run workshops on rabies vaccination, have been shipped to the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and the University of Zambia. Since receiving the training, the women scientists at those institutes have delivered training to 180 school students in Kenya and Nigeria, and further workshops are planned in Zambia.

Breaking down stereotypes

Photograph of Eleanor Riley speaking

AWARD's deputy director for programmes, Michèle Mbo'o-Tchouawou, spoke at the reception, where she praised the programme and the AWARD country chapters involved in its delivery.

"This is not just another initiative," she said. "It is also an opportunity to see how interested young girls are in doing science. All they need is people to motivate them to really think that it is something they can do, and they can succeed."

Prof Eleanor Riley, director of the Roslin Institute, said the programme was important for breaking down stereotypes.

"The key thing is that these workshops are run by African women scientists," she told the reception. "The very first scientist that many of these children will meet face-to-face is a woman … If you are a girl, you can aspire to be like that woman scientist that you met."

Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Older People and Equalities, said that these efforts were important for Scotland and internationally.

"It means that young girls will become the professors of the future at universities in Edinburgh, Scotland and globally, and that’s really exciting," she said.

Passion and commitment to gender equality

Photograph of Christina McKelvie speaking

Also celebrated at the event were AWARD's fellowship programme, which helps to build and develop the technical and translational skills of early career women researchers in Africa, and the Roslin Institute's work on improving equality and diversity among its staff.

Hosting the reception, Colin Beattie MSP said he was looking forward to seeing the impact all the initiatives would have on addressing the issue.

"I'm very impressed with their passion and commitment to gender equality, and I’m sure this is going to go forward and translate into real advancement," he said.

You can follow the African Schools Outreach Programme's progress on Twitter using the hashtag #InspiringFutureScientists.