Recently, Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt sparked controversy when he claimed that women should not be in science, as they can prove distracting to male scientists in the workplace. In protest of this, thousands of female scientists took to Twitter to post pictures of themselves at work under the Twitter hashtag, #DistractinglySexy. In light of this (as well as Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim’s background as a biologist), here are five African female scientists that you should know about.
- Rapelang Rabana, Technologist, South Africa
Upon graduating in Business Science with Honors in Computer Science from the University of Cape Town, Rapelang Rabana co-founded Yeigo Communications, South Africa’s first development company that offered free VoIP mobile services. Through its success, it soon partnered with Telfree, a Swiss Telecommunications Company and Rapelang created a mobile learning app, ReKindle Learning. It is no wonder, then, that she has been listed in several awards such as Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs and Oprah Magazine’s O Power List 2012.
2. Nagwa Abdel Meguid, Geneticist, Egypt
Dr. Nagwa is a notable geneticist who has identified several genetic mutations that cause common syndromes such as the fragile X syndrome and Autism. In 2002, she won the L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science for Africa and the Middle East. Since then, she has set up clinics for children with special needs, as well as dealing with early intervention. She is also a member of several groups such as the Gender Research in Africa into Information Communication Technologies for Empowerment (GRACE), as well as Autism-Open Access, to name a few.
3. Juliana Rotich, Technologist, Kenya
In 2007, during Kenya’s post-election violence, Juliana Rotich co-founded a software platform, Ushahidi.com, where citizens could report incidences of violence and have them mapped out via Google Maps; this is now a trend in social media activism. She is also the founder of iHub, an innovation hub for other like-minded technologists, and Mobisoko, a mobile app marketplace. As if all that wasn’t enough, Juliana is also a TED Senior Fellow, was named among The Guardian’s 100 Top Women, and serves on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Information Communications Technology.
4. Nashwa Eassa, Nanoparticle Physicist, Sudan
Dr. Nashwa has a Master of Science in Material Physics and Nanotechnology and is pursuing a Postdoctoral fellowship in nano-photonics. She founded Sudanese Women in Science and due to her research in nanoparticle physics, won the Elsevier Foundation Award for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World in 2015. She is also the assistant professor of physics at Al Neelain University, Khartoum and is currently collaborating on a project that aims at sanitizing water through solar radiation.
5. Godliver Businger, Civil Engineer, Uganda
Godliver graduated from St Joseph’s Technical Institute in Kisubi in 2012, and began her career as a civil engineer by joining the Global Women’s Water Initiative. Here, she works on teaching rural women about construction and setting up water, sanitation, and hygiene-businesses (WASH), such as latrines. She also hosted a radio show, “Ladies Night” which was focused on creating awareness of the values of educating girls. She was also listed as a Female Water Role Model by Reuters’ trust.org.
So, there you have it: whether you’re a woman in science yourself, or whether you’re just looking for some good old-fashioned inspiration, these are just a few of the many African scientists making the world a better place. If you have a favorite African female scientist or if you think there is someone who definitely should have been on this list, feel free to comment below.