“I had to overcome social stereotypes in Uganda to become a scientist,” says Daniella Akellot Global Youth Ambassador from Uganda in an interview carried by Their World. She holds a Master of Science in Public Health from Oxford Brookes University in the UK and a Bachelors in Biomedical Laboratory Technology from Makerere University in Uganda.
Daniella is working in two research roles as the Research Coordinator at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital and Research Consultant at Kumi Orthopedic Centre, where she is responsible for conducting research studies about disability and orthopedic conditions respectively. “For a long time, scientific roles, including research-related ones, have been dominated by men. Social stereotypes in my country assume that arts-related fields are for women and girls while science is for males. I attend many research-related conferences and I find that there are few women present compared to males. So, yes, I believe there are few opportunities given to women in Uganda to work in research positions after graduation,” Daniella says.
She says the gender imbalance exists because girls and women are discouraged by friends and family from pursuing STEM courses. The perception in Uganda, Daniella opines, is that girls eventually will marry, have children and cook for their families. She says the assumption is that they will not have time to pursue STEM careers which are very demanding both intellectually and physically. It is assumed that women will not be able to balance work and family hence are forced to sacrifice their careers in favour of family obligations.
She notes though that the Ugandan government has taken steps in developing policies that encourage a higher female intake in STEM courses, especially at secondary and university level. Affirmative action, according to her, has been implemented – as female students enrolling for university education are given an extra point to help them qualify for the courses applied for.
“Girls need female mentors in STEM to help encourage them to pursue careers in this field. Personally, I look up to some female scientists who are pursuing successful careers in STEM. Furthermore, there is a need for both professional and programme support to assist women to meet both career and family obligations.