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OWSD Assembly Days 9-10: OWSD conference on women, science and development comes to a close

December 07, 2021

The 2-week General Assembly finished with local gatherings and feedback from members.

On Thursday, November 18, the closing ceremony of the OWSD General Assembly and International Conference was led by OWSD President Jennifer Thomson. She reviewed the activities that had taken place over the course of eight days. Jennifer also interviewed OWSD Executive Board members as well as select OWSD members and asked them to share their highlights of the conference. The participants enthused about the mentorship opportunities during the conference, the keynote speeches that motivated them, and the sessions on communication for scientists. 

Chioma Blaise Chikere, an OWSD member from Nigeria who was also a 2005 PhD Fellow, shared an interaction during the conference that particularly inspired and encouraged her: "During the poster session, one of the scientists that came to my poster had a 9 month old baby, and the baby was trying to get her attention while I was discussing with her," she said. "She tried to be apologetic, but I said please, I'm a mom of four kids and...I know what it means to be a mom in science, so I tried to encourage her. After that encouragement she asked for my email address, she emailed me and she asked me to be her mentor...As we are rising, we pull other women along with us, we lift them up." 

Ariadna Garza, a member from Mexico, said "I think these kinds of organizations and these kinds of events are making the way a little bit easier [for women in science]. I want to express my gratitude to OWSD for having the space for discussions on very difficult topics. It has also produced a space for mentorship, and I think the coming years are going to be much better because there are many more girls and women scientists involved in these goals." 

The ninth day of the conference also included a poster session on 'Sex and gender as variables in scientific research', where 19 members presented their posters on applying a sex-gender lens to research, and gender inequalities in science. 

Connecting with local hubs

The tenth and final day of the conference on November 19 was devoted to OWSD’s network of 44 National Chapters. During the first half of the day, OWSD members in the various member countries met offline to celebrate and network, discuss research and funding opportunities, mentor young women who were interested in science, and more. This included an in-person meeting in Trieste, Italythe home of the OWSD Secretariatwhere more than a dozen local businesses, academic and scientific institutions, and government representatives voiced their support for women, science, and development. 

During the second half of the day, OWSD Coordinator Tonya Blowers chaired a virtual gathering of all the National Chapters participating in the day's events, to hear a short summary of each chapter's activities. Reporting were National Chapters in Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Guatemala, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Palestine, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. This lightning tour of all the different National Chapters showcased of the extent and diversity of the OWSD global community.   

"What an extraordinary way to end this fantastic two weeks of meetings," said OWSD President Jennifer Thomson in response to the National Chapter presentations. "I always say that the National Chapters are the backbone of OWSD, and you have shown us that in spades today...I'm blown away."
"And what an amazing event we've had," she continued. "We started out calling it a General Assembly, and we're going to end up by calling it a 'Women in Science festival', because that's precisely what it's been. We've had such splendid lectures, we've had terrific discussions from far and wide, we had such fun wandering around the posters and chatting to the presentersand now we've had the National Chapter hubs worldwide. So much of the importance is networking, getting together, and sharing our experiences." 

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