- In order to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), more women have to have a seat at the research table.
- Recognizing the full potential of women scientists, WorldFish in Bangladesh engaged a number of women scientists to conserve biodiversity through the Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh Phase II (ECOFISH II) project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
- Taking into account gender and diversity issues makes scientific research more meaningful.
The world has less than seven years to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges and achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In order to achieve the SDGs, more women have to have a seat at the research table.
While women have achieved parity at the bachelor’s and master’s levels of study and are on the verge of reaching parity at the doctoral level, the gender gap widens as they advance in their professions.
According to the 2021 UNESCO Science Report, only 33 percent of researchers around the world are women, with Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia reporting the highest and lowest proportion of female researchers at 51 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
Women and girls are making significant contributions to many fields across the world, including science and technology. However, the achievements of women and girls in science are seldom recognized or rewarded. Their participation in a variety of scientific fields also still lacks behind their male counterparts. While there is a high percentage of women in health and life sciences, women remain a minority in engineering and computer science.
Full and equal participation in science for women and girls can play a vital role in ensuring a diverse range of research, expanding the pool of outstanding researchers and embracing fresh perspectives.
Recognizing the role of women scientists
Recognizing the full potential of women scientists, WorldFish in Bangladesh engaged a number of women scientists who are conducting research and mobilizing the fishing community and relevant stakeholders to conserve biodiversity through the Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh Phase II (ECOFISH II) project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
One of these scientists is Sagorika Smriti, a research associate in the ECOFISH II team based in Kalapara, Patuakhali. On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, she discusses her motivation for working as a scientist, her aspirations and her inspiration.
Since 2016, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science has been observed globally on February 11 to promote gender equality for women and girls to pursue science and celebrate their scientific achievements. This year’s theme is ‘Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. Sustain. (I.D.E.A.S.): Bringing Communities Forward for Sustainable and Equitable Development’, emphasizing the importance of encouraging inclusive and sustainable development.
Smriti, who was born in Nalcity Upazila of Jhalakati district, earned her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in fisheries from the University of Dhaka. Prior to joining WorldFish in 2018, she was a research assistant in a lab.
Her research interests include catfish conservation, megafauna – large animals – conservation, plastic pollution reduction, stakeholder engagement and other topics related to ensuring food security and nutrition for marginalized fishing communities, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, the Blue Economy and ocean governance.
"When I was a Master’s student, I read many journals and discovered that many megafauna species were declining day by day. I prayed to God for the opportunity to conserve their biodiversity," said Smriti.
Conserving megafauna biodiversity for a healthy ocean
Oceans support an estimated 94 percent of all life on earth and produce about half of the world’s oxygen. Human life depends on an ocean that is healthy and an ocean that is healthy depends on its ecosystem, which requires megafauna to maintain its balance.
"I was extremely concerned about the destruction of megafaunas," Smriti related after witnessing the open beating of megafaunas at several landing centers in 2021.
“We quickly distributed posters at different landing centers to promote the significance of megafauna to biodiversity through various conservation management programs,” shared Smriti.
She continued, "The administration has also taken legal action against those involved in the megafauna drying business."
In order to clean up beach pollutants, she also works with the Department of Fisheries, the co-management group stationed at landing centers, fishermen, the Upazilla administration, the Kuakata Tour Operators Association and youth as Blue Guards.
"We have a number of brilliant women scientists who are passionate about their research and mobilizing the relevant stakeholders," Md. Jalilur Rahman, a WorldFish scientist in Bangladesh working on the ECOFISH II project.
“We truly believe that taking into account gender and diversity issues makes scientific research more meaningful. The world needs more women in science to address the obvious gender disparity," he added.