February 04, 2022
OWSD Nigeria National Chapter University of PortHarcourt Branch Series of Scientific Communications: Chidinma Okafor on Women Scientists and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Women scientists and the United Nations sustainable development goals (UNSDGs):
Thinking globally and acting locally
Chidinma P. Okafor
Africa Centre of Excellence, Centre for Oil field chemicals research-(ACE-CEFOR), University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.
According to the United Nations, the global human population reached the seven (7) billion mark in the year 2011. Presently, it stands at 7.7 billion, and it’s projected to reach 8.5 billion b 2030, 9.7billion by the year 2050 and 10.9billion in the wake of the 22nd century . This increase in human populations comes with greater demands on the limited and scarce natural resources. Consequently, increased anthropogenic activities which exerts pressure on the planet, resulting in problems like climate change crisis, hunger, housing challenges, massive poverty amongst several other issues. World leaders of member states under the umbrella of the United Nations in 2015, modified and adopted the millennium development goals (MDGs) into sustainable development goals (SDGs). This improvement also increased the goals from eight (8) and 21 targets of the MDG to the present seventeen (17) SDGs goals and 169 targets. The general focus of the goals also changed from socially centered MDG to a more encompassing approach which includes economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection. The SDGs applies to all countries of the world unlike the MDGs which targets only developing countries. The UNSDGs consolidates the gains of the MDG with a vision to make the world a better and safer place by the year 2030. The UNSDGs are as follows:
Goal 1…. No Poverty
Goal 2 …. Zero hunger
Goal 3…. Good health and well-being
Goal 4…. Quality education
Goal 5…. Gender Equality
Goal 6…. Clean water and sanitation
Goal 7…. Affordable and clean energy
Goal 8…. Decent work and economic growth
Goal 9…. Industry, Innovation and infrastructure
Goal 10…. Reduced inequalities
Goal 11…. Sustainable cities and communities
Goal12…. Responsible consumption and production
Goal 13…. Climate action
Goal 14 …. Life below water
Goal 15 …. Life on land
Goal 16 …. Peace, Justice and strong institutions
Goal 17…. Partnerships for the goals .
The woman, her science and the SDGs
Women scientists in this context are women working in research and innovations within a tertiary institution or research centres. These women in STEM from the tertiary institutions and research centers enjoy unique opportunities provided by these institutions. These opportunities include good and equipped laboratories for innovative research, enabling environment for professional growth, adequate and readily available manpower, mentorship, research grants and sponsorships for self-development trainings as well as setting rules which encourages productivity while in active service. These opportunities when properly utilized empower the woman scientist to positively impact on her sphere of influence. Research is a tool for development and a driving force for positive change. As such, the woman scientist could refocus her science to innovative researches which satisfies one or more of the UN sustainable development goals. Although the SDGs are global goals, independent individual efforts are required to achieve the target objectives of the goals. While women scientists are in different professional cadre, both individual and partnership efforts are required in realization of the SDGs.
Roles of women scientists in implementing the SDGs
Women in management and policy making positions should initiate and sponsor policies that promote the actualization of the UNSDGs like justice and fairness, peaceful coexistence, reduced inequality and gender biases  within the university systems and country in general. Merit without gender bias should be encouraged at all times. Management level women scientists are also to lead by example, to serve as reference points for appointment of other women to leadership roles.
Mentoring is a protected relationship which supports development of the professional skills of the mentee. To encourage younger women in STEM, mentorship opportunities should be encouraged where older and more experienced members take up the responsibility of training younger women colleagues. This mentor/mentee relationship will strengthen the resolve of the younger women, preventing them from leaking out of the STEM pipelines and aligning their interest to satisfying global goals.
In-depth research involves a team of professionals from different fields collaborating in a research project. Collaborations could be inter-faculty or between institutions as more researchers in any team consolidates the viability of the research. The UNSDGs has many target objectives for the realization of the goals. Most targets cut across disciplines, hence interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged to achieve desired goals . For instance, to achieve Zero hunger which is the 2nd goal, there’s need to have access to safe and nutritious food. Safe products involve planting on unpolluted soils and in rare cases, reclamation of polluted lands for farming. Experts in the field of remediation, toxicology as well as crop science are required for effective assessment of the safety of crops planted on reclaimed soils. It also requires research into ways of improving and doubling productivity and reducing effect of climate change on plants which will be needing biotechnologists as well as agriculturists.
Innovative and Impactful Research
Women in STEM are encouraged to align their research interest and theme to a sustainable development goal. Research and innovations should be targeted to satisfy one or more UNSDGs. Hence each research team should design researches which are impactful and innovative as well as sustainable to meet needs within their locality. It is equally important that findings from such works should be communicated accordingly to stake holders.
Women in science are encouraged to form support groups within their locality. This support group serves as avenues for discussion, sharing of ideas, teachings and checkmating the progress of its members. It also serves a peer review club enabling the members to stay abreast of recent findings in their professional life. However, most importantly it should serve as a haven for women to air their frustrations and relieve stress to ensure their overall wellbeing.
Last but not the least it is said that we are the product of the choices we make. Everyday individual choices and lifestyle adjustment could go a long way in implementing the Unsustainable development goals. Some lifestyle changes which impact positively are as follows:
- Taking short walks and cycling against driving especially within short distances.
- Reuse and recycle of plastics and disregard of since use plastics.
- Patronizing locally made products.
- Choosing sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives
- Planting trees, flower gardens and use of indoor plants
- Moderate use and proper disposal of chemicals in the environment
- Adequate compensation and timely payment of domestic staff and helpers.
- Proper waste disposal
- Mediating and promoting peaceful coexistence
- Education and sensitization of your community to make the desired lifestyle choices too.
While the list is not exhaustive, these are some of lifestyle choices which when implemented could trigger desired changes and help save the world .
The UNSDGs are mere goals to help us internalize the danger facing the human race. The threat to the quality of life on planet earth is a real and imminent one. As individuals and as communities, there is need to rethink and align properly to achieve the global goals. From innovative research to patronizing local industries by purchasing locally made goods, discouraging the single-use plastics, use of eco-friendly alternatives in our everyday products, encouraging reuse and recycling, sensitizing the community around you (churches, domestic staff, women groups, estate meetings etc) to do same, the decision to willfully make everyday life choices to spare the environment, improve the quality of life and promote peaceful coexistence counts in our overall efforts in realizing the goals. We should therefore act locally to achieve the global goals.
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- Mobile Number: +234(0)8037663182(WhatsApp), +234-(0)8088219936.
- ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7381-9605;
- https://www.linkedin.com/in/p- c-okafor-5b03841ab.
- ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net.profile/chidinmma-Okafor.