OWSD: Colombia joins the Organization of Scientists in Developing Countries

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This year the Columbia chapter of Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) opened, a UNICEF initiative that seeks to showcase and apply its research. El Espectador spoke with the Executive Committee to find out more about the new project.

More than 20 years ago, an organization was born that sought to highlight two phenomena that, even today, go unnoticed: women who practice science and do so in developing countries as well. This is how OWSD was created in 1993, a UNICEF-led program that, by 2018, had 7,000 members and was present in 30 countries. (May interest you: Being a scientist and mother in Colombia: the flaw we don’t want to see)

In mid-May, thanks to the efforts led by four Colombian scientists, OWSD opened its Colombia branch for the first time. El Espectador spoke with Jenny Paola Danna-Buitrago, PhD in Economics from the University of Grenoble (France) and member of the Executive Committee of OWSD Colombia, to learn about how this initiative is contributing to Colombian scholars. (Read also: Tatiana Toro, Colombian appointed director of the American Mathematical Sciences Research Institute)

What are the benefits of having an OWSD branch for Colombia?

What OWSD seeks is to empower women scientists in developing countries, which makes it unique, because no other organization has this latter focus. The idea is to be able to highlight women scientists and help them finish and lead research projects through access to the calls. In addition, OWSD helps promote that research findings by women scientists can have a real impact in these developing countries. It also helps solve problems found in other fields, not just in science, such as the wage gap or that because of the domestic burden, many women heads of household are leaving their jobs, or in this case, research. (You may be interested: Colombians who break it in their field)

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And what does it take to be a part of the Columbia chapter?

it is easy. Enter the OWSD page, link to it, and submit a resume saying you want to be part of a Columbia class. There (OWSD is based in Italy) they look at the profile and accept it.

Do you have to meet any criteria?

Yes, for a woman to be interested in the investigation, whether from the upbringing or the act itself. They require at least a master’s or doctoral degree, and evidence that a research project is under development or has been implemented.

What can a scientist join OWSD?

For calls, scholarships, project funding, or mobility opportunities, which involve going to work in laboratories in other countries. The scientist may have an active or passive role. By active I mean you might be part of a class committee. We now have an executive committee, with the four people who led the initiative (Luisa Fernanda Echevarria, Laura Andrea Galvez, Angela Patricia Jimenez and myself), but we form committees in different areas. It’s time to join the scientists to be a part of one. But, well, if they don’t have the time, they can take a passive role and simply be part of the OWSD to receive the summons.

Are there really scholars who are part of this class?

Yes, there are 75 members. With this group we applied to OWSD to open a Columbia branch.

How was this creation?

It was time to pass a written project to OWSD with the goals we wanted to implement for Colombia. Furthermore, one of the requirements was a host institution, and since I am the Director of Research at the University of Los Libertadores Foundation, we signed an agreement with them.

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What is the panorama of the world in Colombia?

It is the same in all countries, because it also happens in developed countries, and there is a gap between men and women, although it is smaller in other countries. There is a gap in salaries and in terms of vocational training, because there are some fields, such as engineering or what they call “hard” sciences, that women are not involved in. Well, that leads me to another thing: that in Colombia we don’t give much importance to the social sciences. Here the scientist is an engineer, he is the one who works at NASA, or wears a white coat. What we want to show is that many women are social scientists. I, for example, am in economics. And that doesn’t mean I don’t do science because I’m not in a lab. This is a big need that we want to focus on: that there is horizontal in the different areas of knowledge, and that they all get to know each other.

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