Six months after winning an AWARD Fellowship, some Nigerian scientists already report measurable progress in their research careers.
“Prior to AWARD, I had dreams, but could not realize them. I had goals, but could not achieve them,” says Ugo Chijioke, a post-master’s AWARD Fellow from Nigeria.
Chijioke, a senior research officer at the National Root Crops Research Institute, credits the fellowship with helping her to define her dreams and quantify her goals. Six months after winning a fellowship, she has already achieved her short-term goal of starting a PhD in food processing and value addition, as well as establishing a link with a U.K.-based institution, where she will conduct her research. Among her successes is an upcoming presentation of a scientific paper at a conference in Kampala, Uganda, and membership of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops.
Chijioke was speaking at the AWARD Regional Progress Monitoring Meeting held May 7-12 at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria. The meeting brought together 78 AWARD Fellows from Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia from the 2010 and 2011 fellowship rounds. AWARD Mentors also participated, as well as the younger women scientists (known in AWARD as Fellows’ Mentees), who are being mentored by AWARD Fellows.
The five-day workshop focused on reviewing the women’s progress against career goals that they set for themselves at the beginning of the fellowship.
Nigerian nutritionist Joan Babajide, a senior lecturer at the University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, says she is a changed woman since joining AWARD. Ironically, winning the fellowship in August, 2011 came close on the heels of her biggest career downer. She was passed over for a coveted promotion that would have propelled her to the next career stage—full professor. Through the life purpose map tool that she developed with the help of her AWARD mentor, Professor Elizabeth Balogun, Babajide’s career got a much-needed jumpstart. By defining what she wanted professionally and quantifying milestones to her dream, Babajide managed to change a difficult situation into a very promising one.
Babajide’s life goal is to develop an innovative yam flour product known as elubo in her local Yoruba language. This flour will not only be more nutritious, but easier and quicker to prepare, thus freeing women from the drudgery involved in food preparation. She plans to train rural women to become elubo processors, thus empowering them economically.
Besides the old dream of becoming a professor, Babajide, who holds a PhD in food science and technology, also longs to be an entrepreneur, and has made serious strides in that direction. She has already analyzed flour samples in available national laboratories, applied for research placement at state-of-the-art research laboratories outside her country, and is preparing papers to submit to international journals once she finishes sample testing. By publishing in international journals, Babajide will increase her chances of becoming a full professor and disseminate findings about her innovative yam flour product.
Babajide plans to patent her elubo flour, learn about entrepreneurship, find private sector partners with whom to carry forward the commercialization of her product, and finally realize her dream of becoming lya-lelubo— the woman of elubo.
Researchers like Babjide are not alone in benefiting from AWARD’s training. Mentors—senior scientists who volunteer their time to guide AWARD Fellows in their research careers— say they are also being transformed. Conference participant Ibok Oduro, a lecturer at Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, cites AWARD’s influence on her mindset change regarding gender programming. Previously, she derided gender programs for women caucuses that alienated men and made it harder to work together. Since taking AWARD’s gender training, her attitude has completely turned around to one of understanding and appreciation for the differences, strengths, and weaknesses exhibited by both sexes.
Fig 1. Ugo Chijioke Progress Marker
Fig 2. Joan Babjide Career Lifeline