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Forum for Women in Science Urges Efforts to Help Refugees

AMMAN—The World Forum for Women in Science ended a three-day conference in Iraqi Kurdistan on March 10 with a call for scientists to do more to help refugees and rebuild war-torn countries.

The conference was organized jointly by the University of Duhok and Women in Science Without Borders (WISWB). Set up in Egypt in 2017 to increase cooperation between female and male scientists, WISWB now has a network of researchers and academics from different fields in more than 40 countries.

The conference was the first of its kind in the region to focus on the needs of refugees. Amal Amin, an Egyptian professor of nanotechnology and the founding chair of WISWB, told delegates that science was “the principal vital element for reconstruction and development.” (See a related article, “Amal Amin: An Egyptian Scholar Seeks Equity for All in Research and Science.”)

She noted that the forum brought together “female and male academics working in all fields of science, technology, engineering and math, including medicine and social related fields,” as well as representatives of international organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

Importance of Education for Refugees

Peter Trotter, head of the Duhok office of UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, emphasized the critical importance of education, both as a means of helping to sustain individual refugees and as a form of community support. (See a related article, “Refugee Education Efforts Not Keeping Up With Need.”)

UNHCR estimates that there are more than 80 million forcibly displaced people in the world, including both internally displaced people and refugees who have fled to another country. More than half of them are under the age of 18. Syrians account for the largest share of displaced people. In a recent report, UNHCR estimated that there were 6.6 million Syrian refugees who had fled to other countries and another 6.7 million people internally displaced inside Syria.

During the WISWB forum, Amin said: “For the future, I would like to invite all scientists to interact and share strongly with their communities to really change the world to a better place to live in for our next generation in the face of the various challenges that they will be facing.”

Encouraging Girls to Go Into Science

Salwa Moussa, an Iraqi communications specialist with the United Nations Population Fund, said science could transform the lives of girls. Encouraging them to enter the field of science would raise their confidence and increase their knowledge and skills, she said.

“Science could transform the lives of girls. Encouraging them to enter the field of science would raise their confidence and increase their knowledge and skills.”

Salwa Moussa  
An Iraqi communications specialist with the United Nations Population Fund

Rana Dajani, a professor of molecular biology from the Hashemite University in Jordan, highlighted the importance of intervention on health issues to help tackle the refugee crisis in her country.

The forum also examined ways in which scientists could help promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 goals were set in 2015 by the U.N. General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. They include providing food security, good health, quality education and gender equality, as well as action on climate change.

The technical sessions of the forum discussed emerging technology such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and biotechnology, with special sessions to highlight success stories of various scientists and international organizations.

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The forum opened on International Women’s Day, March 8. All of the session can be viewed on WISWB’s YouTube channel.

In his opening remarks, Mosleh Mohammed Saeed, president of the University of Duhok, stressed the importance of “building a strong generation of graduates.” He added: “We also aim to have a strong and vibrant economy through innovation and maximum utilization of technology and … by strengthening our collaboration in applied research.”

The next forum will be held in Nairobi in November 2021.


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