More action needed to draw women to science, say Middle East female achievers

Special More action needed to draw women to science, say Middle East female achievers
The Gulf region is blazing a trail for women in science, but there is still a long way to go, experts say. (AFP)
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Updated 05 March 2022

More action needed to draw women to science, say Middle East female achievers

More action needed to draw women to science, say Middle East female achievers
  • Women have vital contribution to make to science and technology, according to honorees at Expo 2020 Dubai event
  • Gulf countries blazing a trail, but in the rest of the Arab region women have a long way to go in the STEM fields

DUBAI: Despite recent advancements in the Middle East, women remain massively under-represented in the fields of science and engineering across the region and more must be done to change this, say experts.

According to the 2021 UNESCO Science Report, only 33 percent of researchers worldwide are women. While gender parity has almost been achieved in the Middle East and North Africa region at the doctorate level and at the start of a scientific career, there are still considerable disparities across disciplines and between countries.

The glass ceiling remains a reality for females involved in research, where the proportion of women decreases as they advance in their careers, in all likelihood because of obstacles and barriers. Although the Gulf region is blazing a trail for women, there is still a long way to go given that they constitute only 40 percent of the STEM workforce.




Only 33 percent of researchers worldwide are women. (AFP)

Nura Adam Mohammed, from Qatar University, believes that changing this imbalance requires collaboration among many groups, organizations and parts of society, including families, schools, universities and governments.

“Empowering women in science should start at the very early stages, as early as primary schools, and by hosting public engagements and welcoming young girls to research open days and later to volunteer in the research field,” she said.

Her work involves the development of nonconventional therapeutic tools to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which could potentially help to solve one of the region’s biggest health challenges.

Mohammed was one of 14 Arab women honored last month at L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East, a special event hosted by Expo 2020 Dubai in recognition of the work of exceptional women in the fields of life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and computer science.

The project is part of a global initiative that since its inception in 1998 has recognized more than 3,900 researchers and 122 laureates from more than 110 countries and regions.

Another of those recognized this year was Ghada Dushaq from New York University Abu Dhabi, one of five women from the Gulf Cooperation Council area honored at the event.

She said she hopes to inspire a new generation of Arab women to take up science, a sector in which they remain under-represented, and is specifically interested in the fields of photonics and optics where the proportion is below average.




The glass ceiling remains a reality for females involved in research. (AFP)

“Innovative and ground-breaking scientific ideas require the talents of both women and men,” she said. “Achieving gender equality in science will create a balanced and holistic approach to leadership and better-educated children in future generations.”

Dushaq was recognized for her post-doctoral research on novel materials and structures in photonics to enhance the speed, capacity and accuracy of conventional technologies. She said such research has the potential to influence, and even revolutionize, other sectors such as health, space, mobility and security.

Arij Yehya, also from Qatar University and honored at the event, said that she believes more must be done to encourage women to pursue a career in science as the benefits of their work can extend far beyond the scientific community.

“Women have important social roles, such as being caregivers,” she said. “Having more women working in the field of science can provide an impact on the community through their social roles, and women in science can pave the way for a more prosperous society.”

Yehya’s research focuses on identifying factors that drive the widening of the gender gap in personality traits to further evaluate current and future gender policies.

Investigative work of this nature is complex and requires a rigorous scientific approach but most work on the subject comes from other parts of the world and it is time to bridge this gap in the region, she said, referring to the discovery of links between personality and culture.



1. Ghada Dushaq, a researcher at New York University Abu Dhabi

2. Halima Al-Naqbi, an academic at Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi

3. Hend Al-Qaderi, a lecturer at Harvard School of Dental Medicine 

4. Nura Adam Mohammed, a researcher at Qatar University

5. Arij Yehya, an instructor at Qatar University


“This might hinder the full understanding of the complexity of our cultures and individuals,” Yehya said. “Paving the way for younger generations will give us a good chance to build on previous findings and learn more about our cultural and individual identities.”

Halima Alnaqbi, an academic at Khalifa University, comes from a small town in the UAE where tribal marriage is considered a tradition. She told how she remembers observing, as a curious child, that some people in her community suffered from rare diseases that mostly resulted from genetics.

She later learned that more rare diseases appear in communities with certain cultural practices, such as consanguineous marriage, or marriage between close blood relatives, that increase the prevalence of recessive disorders.

“As I grew older and became a biomedical engineer,” Alnaqbi said. “I channeled my intrinsic motivation to solve challenges that impacted my society and the world.

“I particularly devoted my knowledge and skills to studying the genes that govern the immune system (immunogenetics) in the Arabian population, which play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases.”




“Empowering women in science should start at the very early stages,” said Nura Adam Mohammed, from Qatar University. (AFP)

Her research into ways to enhance the organ transplantation system to better include Arab ethnic groups is crucial for the region. Due to a dearth of genome data about the Arabian population, healthcare systems in under-represented nations face unique challenges that affect the region’s capacity to integrate molecular genetic research findings into clinical applications.

“Unrelated organ donors are identified from millions of volunteers via regional networks,” Alnaqbi said. “However, there is no Arabian contribution to these international registries. My research aims to address this gap and establish a preliminary framework for organ and bone-marrow transplantation donor selection.”

With women now accounting for half of all engineers in the UAE, she added that the field of science is changing in the country, the barriers that once stood in the way of women have been removed and the image of the sector as a male-dominated domain is outdated.




Ghada Dushaq, from New York University Abu Dhabi, said she hopes to inspire a new generation of Arab women to take up science. (AFP)

“The stereotype that working in science, and especially engineering, is only for men is changing,” Alnaqbi said. “In science, research is done in teams, and gender and specialization diversity in any team is particularly important since it encourages innovation.

“Women have previously demonstrated their ability in science topics, as more than half of engineering graduates in the UAE are female.”

Hend Alqaderi, who is from Kuwait and a lecturer at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, also believes that it is crucial to engage more women in science and said her personal experiences during the pandemic only helped to reinforce her opinion.

“Having more women in scientific research can bring diversity and make research more effective and accurate, impacting both men and women,” she said.

Her research is on the use of oral fluids as a non-invasive tool for the early diagnosis and disease management of COVID-19 and other inflammatory diseases. The work has very personal significance for her, as she was inspired to pursue it after the sudden death of her father as a result of the coronavirus.

“After the shock of losing my father, I became curious to understand how the immune system works and why some people have no symptoms while others need hospital care and some pass away,” Alqaderi said.

“I have experience studying salivary biomarkers and I wanted to expand my knowledge, so I decided to study the immune response in the oral cavity that can lead to a new understanding of COVID-19 and might lead to developing new preventative strategies. I hope my findings can help other families like mine and prevent more deaths.”




“The stereotype that working in science, and especially engineering, is only for men is changing,” said Halima Alnaqbi, an academic at Khalifa University. (Shutterstock)

Mohammed’s work on therapeutic tools to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular diseases could prove vital given that the number of people globally with diabetes is approaching 425 million and expected to top 628 million by 2045.

She is developing nano-pharmaceuticals capable not only of delivering drugs to treat diabetes but also minimizing cardiovascular complications associated with the disease, which is one of the most prevalent in the region.

“This research is gaining both national and international attention, especially as the world moves toward targeted drug delivery, personalized medicine and stem cell technologies,” Mohammed said.

“I hope to develop nano-carriers with protective properties that could enhance the loaded drug’s efficacy, and to develop better in vitro cellular and tissue models that better represent diabetes and the associated cardiovascular complications through the use of stem cell technologies.”


Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
Updated 7 sec ago

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
  • Navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel

BEIRUT: The crew of a Lebanese Army speed cruiser that was taking part in a security operation off Al-Saadiyat coast on Thursday had to be rescued after their vessel caught fire, according to a statement by the army.
Other navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel and help put out the fire. No casualties were reported.


UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
  • Part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery

DUBAI: The UAE will issue a new generation of Emirati passports from Sept. 1, authorities said on Thursday.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) said the new passports, equipped with the latest technologies, will have advanced security features.

 

 

The new-generation passports are part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery or fraud, according to Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Chairman of ICP, in a report from state news agency WAM.

The complex security specifications feature a polycarbonate introduction page, laser technologies and “three-dimensional tangible elements.”

Authorities said holders of the current passports can still use their travel document until expiry.


Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
  • Cairo, Khartoum fear it will reduce their share of Nile waters
  • Egypt says it will take all necessary measures to protect national security

CAIRO: In a letter to the UN Security Council, Egypt has warned of cracks in the concrete facade of the sub-dam linked to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Cairo said this is particularly alarming due to Ethiopia’s failure to comply with its duty to conduct the required environmental and socioeconomic impact studies.

The letter, sent to the UNSC president, said Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Aty had received a message about Ethiopia’s intention to unilaterally resume filling the GERD during the current rainy season.

Abdel-Aty said Ethiopia’s decision comes in the absence of an agreement between it and Egypt and Sudan on the rules governing the filling and operation of the dam, constituting a violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries.

He stressed that Cairo holds Ethiopia fully responsible for any significant harm that may be caused to Egypt by these repeated violations.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves its right guaranteed in the UN Charter to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any harm that Ethiopia’s unilateral measures may cause.

The GERD has raised tensions between Ethiopia on one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other.

The latter two countries are demanding a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, which they fear will reduce their share of the Nile’s waters.

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UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
Updated 11 August 2022

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
  • 4-year-old George Jack Temperley-Wells visited Antalya with his mother to see his father

LONDON: Police in the UK have asked for help to locate a 4-year-old boy who is thought to be missing after traveling to Turkey.

George Jack Temperley-Wells is believed to have gone to visit his father Scott Nigel Wells in the city of Antalya on June 29 with his mother Brogan Elizabeth Temperley. Antalya is a popular summer holiday destination for Britons.

Durham Police said anyone in contact with Temperley should notify authorities in Turkey or the UK immediately with information on her whereabouts, adding that they have serious concerns for the welfare of her son.

The police said the boy has red hair, a pale complexion and dark eyes, while his mother is described as being slim with long dark hair and dark eyes.

The force released two images of the trio dining in the area at a restaurant recently, where they were seen smiling together.

People in Turkey with information should visit their nearest police station or call 112/115. Anyone in the UK with information should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, and quote the incident number 325 for June 30.


UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
Updated 11 August 2022

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
  • Italian Embassy: Project will improve housing for vulnerable people affected by port blast

LONDON: The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the UN Program for Human Settlements have signed an agreement in Beirut to finance the rehabilitation of the public park of the Mar Mikhael train station in the Lebanese capital.

The program will also restore some of the housing damaged by the Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, 2020.

The Italian Embassy in Beirut reported the signing, hosting a ceremony at the Italian diplomatic headquarters in Baabda. It was attended by Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Nicoletta Bombardiere.

The project, titled “Ensuring safe public spaces and adequate housing for all within the city of Beirut,” is being funded by the agency and will be implemented by the UN program alongside Lebanese authorities.

The embassy said the project will improve “housing conditions for vulnerable populations affected by the explosion of the port of Beirut, in particular in the vicinity of the old Mar Mikhael railway station.”

It added that the project intends to increase “access to safe and inclusive public spaces within the railway station, also revitalizing the urban fabric of the city.”

Bombardiere said: “This project will allow the citizens of Beirut to rediscover the old Mar Mikhael railway station and its historical relevance.

“At the same time, we continue our commitment to respond to basic needs, such as social housing, restoring the cultural and social fabric of the districts most affected.”