Three Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) female scientists recently participated in a three weeks Social Media Campaign dubbed Gender Equity in Science aimed at reframing problematic narratives that contribute to gender inequity in Science. The interactive Social Media Campaign was launched on Africa Day on May 25,2020 and raised lively discussions on gender biases, cultural stereotypes and problematic narratives that contribute to gender inequity in science. The engagement discussed solutions on how Africa can lead the fight for gender equity in science.
The three BHP Scientists are Dr Motswedi Anderson, Lucy Mupfumi and Monkgomotsi Maseng. They were part of the 24 Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE) scientists from six Sub-Saharan African countries united in the fight against gender equity in their profession.
The project’s Principal Investigator, Maphe Mthembu, a SANTHE PhD student at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in South Africa and her mentor started meaningful discussions between campaign participants, the global scientific community and the general public about gender equity in science. A Community and Public Engagement Seed Grant from the African Academy of Science (AAS) funded the project and the discussions were on Facebook and Twitter.
About BHP’s Super Scientists
Dr Motswedi Anderson, who was nicknamed HeBzee in the campaign, is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership. Her research interests are in viral hepatitis (B, C, D and E) and human immunodeficiency virus. She completed her PhD in Biological Sciences in 2018 and her project was ‘Prevalence and molecular characterization of hepatitis B virus infection in Botswana’.She did BSc in Biomedical Sciences with University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa in 2005. She has been with Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership since 2006. She aspires to be a renowned researcher and to play a key role in viral hepatitis elimination. Dr Anderson says “Gender inequity in science is rife and that men can help by appointing females as their successors as men currently occupy the boardrooms.”
Lucy Mupfumi, nicknamed Fluorophore is a Clinical Scientist and Infectious disease researcher, currently pursuing her PhD in Medical Sciences at the University of Botswana. She is a recipient of a SANTHE training fellowship that aims to provide mentorship and training for the next generation of African scientific leaders. Her research interests are in TB immunology, diagnostics and the control of HIV-associated TB. “I hopes that institutions will start taking deliberate steps to address gender inequities in science, including making relevant policies, tracking and measuring their implementation, and assessing impact of these policies,” Said Lucy.
Monkgomotsi Masengis a Masters student at University of Botswana and the Botswana Harvard AIDS Partnership. Her Research seeks to assess individual patient response to antiretrovirals in the hope of developing personalised or targeted medicine diagnostics to reduce side effects and have more effective treatmnet. She studies how patients respond to the HIV antiretrovirals Nevirapine and Efaverinz. The Tailor, as Monkgomotsi was referred to during the campaign is assessing variations in the gene that codes for Cytochrome P450 and influence on subsequent individual patient response to these medicines and how genetics and susceptibility testing can be individualized , or tailored to patients before they are prescribed a medicine.
“One of the problematic narratives is that women have to combine work with family life and that slows their career progression. Sometimes women are also forced to choose between putting either one on hold, and in doing so, one suffers. I am of the view that women need to be given targeted support due to the gender disparities in science and that both girls and boys need to know they can achieve any career of their choice, ” said Monkgomotsi.
Acknowldgements: Illustrations/pictures by Gender Equity Science.