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.”


Earthquake of magnitude 7.7. strikes Turkiye -GFZ

Earthquake of magnitude 7.7. strikes Turkiye -GFZ
Updated 9 sec ago

Earthquake of magnitude 7.7. strikes Turkiye -GFZ

Earthquake of magnitude 7.7. strikes Turkiye -GFZ

AKARA: A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck central Turkiye on early Monday, the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) said.
The quake was at a depth of 10 km, GFZ said.

 


Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
  • Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Western missions would “pay” for issuing security warnings and temporarily closing consulates in Turkiye last week, while police said there was no serious threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Daesh suspects on Sunday.
Ankara summoned the ambassadors of nine countries on Thursday to criticize their decisions to temporarily shut diplomatic missions and issue security alerts. Turkish officials said the following day that Western nations, including the United States and Germany, had not shared information to back up their claims of a security threat.
“The other day our foreign ministry summoned all of them and gave the necessary ultimatum, told them ‘You will pay for this heavily if you keep this up,’” Erdogan said during a meeting with youth that was pre-recorded and broadcast on Sunday.
Alongside the closures, several Western states warned citizens of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship in Turkiye, following a series of far-right protests in Europe in recent weeks that included several incidents of burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an.
Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned.
Erdogan said that the Western states were “playing for (more) time” and that the “necessary decisions” would be taken during Monday’s cabinet meeting, without elaborating.
’NO CONCRETE THREATS’
Earlier on Sunday, police said they had not found evidence of any concrete threat to foreigners in the detentions of 15 Daesh suspects accused of targeting consulates and non-Muslim houses of worship, state media reported.
Anadolu Agency cited an Istanbul police statement saying the suspects had “received instructions for acts targeting consulates of Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Christian and Jewish places of worship.”
While the suspects’ ties to the jihadist group were confirmed, no concrete threats toward foreigners were found, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated on Saturday Turkiye’s frustration with what it says is Sweden’s inaction toward entities that Ankara accuses of terrorist activity. All 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.
Turkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement in June aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, with the Nordic states pledging to take a harder line primarily against local members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.
 

 


Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
Updated 05 February 2023

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
  • Calls grow for deeper investigation into motivations and protection of youngsters amid shock and despair

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Security services of the southern Yemeni city of Taiz said that two children committed suicide in two separate events on Saturday, leaving the beleaguered population in shock and despair.

Police in Taiz said in a statement that they were notified of two suicide victims in the city on Saturday evening, citing the deaths as “dangerous precedents.”

Police named the first child as 12-year-old Kareem Abdul Kareem from the Al-Jamhuria neighborhood, who hanged himself inside his room on Saturday afternoon by tying a scarf around his neck.

Ammar Khaled, a 16-year-old who committed suicide on Saturday evening by wrapping a rope around his neck and tying it to a door outside his family’s home, is the second victim. 

After forensic investigators gathered photographs and evidence, his family requested his burial on the same day. 

Police in Taiz pledged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the victims and have asked the community and professionals for assistance in determining the reasons behind the suicides.

In a statement, police urged both authorities and members of the public “to collaborate…in order to provide the appropriate answers.”

Mohammed Alawi, an investigator with police in Taiz, told Arab News that a team, including social and psychiatric professionals, was looking into the cases and would release their findings this week.

Initially, Alawi ruled out the possibility of cyberbullying or even sexual harassment and attributed the deaths of the two children to the mobile game PUBG. 

“These are risky games, and we advise parents to monitor their children’s mobile devices to see what they are seeing or playing,” Alawi said.

He also touched on other instances of suicide, which he blamed on psychological suffering caused by the war.

“Women and children in Yemen, particularly in besieged Taiz, have suffered emotionally because of the war. We had never seen such crimes before the war,” he said.  

On social media, the police statement and photographs of the two deceased children have elicited condolences for the families and calls for an investigation into the motivations behind the suicides and for the protection of children.

“You should investigate with the family about the electronic games they played, such as PUBG, and whether they have Facebook or WhatsApp accounts,” said Adnan Taha on Facebook.

“All communications should be reviewed, since (the children) may be vulnerable to harassment and extortion,” Taha said.

Another social media user, Muneir Al-Qaisi, urged local security agencies not to bury the victims before autopsies are conducted to determine whether they consumed anything poisonous.

“We hope you will not hurry to bury them and (will) examine their bodies,” Al-Qaisi said. 

“It is conceivable that the parents are unaware of beverages or meals being shared among the children,” said Al-Qaisi.

Investigator Alawi responded to accusations of a hasty burial by stating that one of the boys was buried at the request of his family and only after investigators examined both the corpse and the scene.

“He was buried after forensic teams examined the scene, photographed it, and performed investigations. Additionally, his relatives requested burial from the prosecution,” Alawi said.


Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
Updated 05 February 2023

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
  • Rachid Karami International Fair has decayed due to conflict, poor maintenance and country’s financial crisis

TRIPOLI: Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crumbling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.
But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recently Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently – and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national program officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architecture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond – but rare – memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions and economic benefits to Tripoli – already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”


Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
Updated 05 February 2023

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
  • Budget for event will instead be used to fund development initiatives
  • Event was set to start later this month

CAIRO: In response to a host of global economic challenges, this year’s World Youth Forum, which was set to start later this month, has been canceled, its organizers said on Saturday.

Instead, the budget for the event, which was to be held in the Egyptian town of Sharm El-Sheikh, will be used to fund the implementation of five development initiatives aimed at young people in Egypt and beyond.

This year would have marked the fifth edition of the forum, with the fourth being held in January last year. The event is organized by the Presidential Program for Qualifying Youth for Leadership.

It said the decision to cancel this year's conference was an acknowledgment of the multiple crises facing the world that have put huge humanitarian and economic pressures on nations and governments.

Among the beneficiaries of the redirected funding is a series of international exchange programs for young people. These will be arranged in cooperation with the Decent Life Foundation, National Alliance for Civil Development Action, Arab Union for Volunteering and UN Volunteers Program.

Parliamentary Counselor Issam Hilal Afifi told Arab News that the proceeds from the sponsorship rights to this year’s forum would be redirected toward a large package of initiatives.

Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud Mahran, secretary-general of the International Committee for the Defense of Water Resources, said the move would also enable recommendations made at the previous forum to be implemented.

The planned initiatives would have a positive impact at the local, African and global level, he said.