Gender Summer School at Uppsala University
Between 15 and 26 August, 2016, five female scientists from ISP supported groups in Kenya and Uganda visited Uppsala University to take part in the gender summer school named "Diversity in the Cultures of Physics". The school has been jointly organized and by the Department of Physics and ISP at Uppsala University, and the Department of Physics at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
The main goal of the summer school was to promote mentorship and networking between young and senior (female) scientists, to improve non-academic competences and increase awareness about the gender biases present at universities and in academia in general.
In total the summer school involved 21 participants from Germany, Kenya, Sweden and Uganda. The two-week intense program at Uppsala University included several lectures and workshops, with scientific, communication and gender equality contents. The participants also visited research groups in Stockholm and Uppsala.
ISP acknowledges the UU Vice-Chancellor and “Rådet för Lika villkor” at Uppsala University for the grant which allows the successful organisation of the summer school.
Participant Priscilla Muheki, is one of the first two female PhD students at the Department of Physics at Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda.
According to you, what are the main issues facing women in Sciences in Uganda?
- Basically, it is about lack of opportunities for women. Because of cultural reasons, women have the main responsibility to take care of the home and the family which often are stopping them from pursing their studies and careers. If you are a woman, it is more important for your family that you get married than continue to study. And once you get married and have kids, continuing studies is even harder because of the dual work load. In addition, the tuition fees are high and there are a limited number of scholarships. There is also a lack of female mentors and role models in science, especially at the tertiary levels. We are the first two female PhD students in physics at our university, and in general there are very few female doctors in physics in the country.
What do you take with you back home from the two weeks in Uppsala?
- It was good and empowering for me as a woman. I learned so much from the different talks. The main thing I take with me is “If you can imagine it, you can make it. If you can dream it, you can achieve it”. It summarizes my experience in every way. Back home we still have a lot of work to do to encouraging more female students into doing physics. I believe that I also need to include more men in this work, because their efforts are very crucial in promoting this cause. In any case “two hands are better than one”.