Sophia Huyer-Opening Statement

Date: Wed Dec 01 1999 - 09:58:02 EST


Before I begin, I would like to say how pleased I am to be part of this
event. I'm looking forward to a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion!

Let me start by introducing myself. I am the Executive Director of Women
in Global Science and Technology (WIGSAT), an NGO which promotes
networking among women working in international science, technology and
development. We have a strong focus on information technologies, and work
to support access to electronic communication for women scientists and
technologists in developing countries. We have also prepared reports for
Canadian policy makers on critical issues for women in developing
countries with respect to the use of information technologies for
sustainable development. WIGSAT is part of the Once and Future Action
Network, an international coalition of organisations in gender, science
and technology, and was part of the advocacy group organised by OFAN,
UNIFEM and UNESCO at the recent World Conference on Science. For more
information, the WIGSAT web site is Jayshree Mehta,
President of OFAN, can tell you more about OFAN's activities.

I also work with the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission on Science
and Technology for Development (UNCSTD). The Board?s mandate is to help
the Commission, national governments, and UN agencies implement a series
of gender recommendations which were ratified by the UN in 1995. An
important element of this work is to act as a liaison between NGOs and
policy makers. Some participants may want to discuss potential linking
activities during the next few days. More information on the Gender
Advisory Board and the gender recommendations is available at

The *Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge* which was
finalised at the World Conference on Science in July 1999 stated that:
The sciences should be at the service of humanity as a whole, and should
contribute to providing everyone with a deeper understanding of nature and
society, a better quality of life and a sustainable and healthy
environment for present and future generations.?

A report of the gender panel at the Conference noted some key gender

"In many countries, especially in Africa, there are fewer girls than
       boys that have access to primary education, and of those children
       that do have access, fewer girls than boys learn about science.

In many countries fewer girls than boys study scientific and
       technological subjects in either secondary or tertiary education.

In many countries fewer women than men pursue scientific or
       technological careers, and far fewer reach the top professional,
       managerial or policy making positions.

Technological change, especially that designed to improve the
       quality of life in rural areas in developing countries, has been
       more directed to the tasks that men perform than to the tasks women
       perform, both in and outside the household. Development
       programmes frequently have not taken this gender dimension into

Men and women are repositories of different components of
       indigenous knowledge."

The report also noted the need for a major campaign, organised by Unesco
and UNIFEM, to alert policy makers, educators and parents in all countries
to the critical importance of gender and science.

And finally, the need for networks of support for women in science,
nationally and internationally, has been raised at the World Conference
and elsewhere.

(You can find the full WCS gender workshop report at the Gender Advisory
Board web site,;
to find the UNESCO Declaration and Framework of Action, go to the Virtual
Pavilion section on the Once and Future Action Network home page at If members are interested, I can circulate
some of these documents on the list.)

Here are some of the questions that I would like to pose for discussion in
view of these statements:
* A colleague in Cote d'Ivoire recently did a fast survey of selected
women scientists and engineers in her region. The resulting question is:
How do we get to a critical mass of women engineers and scientists in
developing countries to avoid "marginalization," given the scarcity of
resources and the poverty which push families to have their girls marry
quickly or shorten their education?
* What are useful strategies for supporting women scientists and
technologists in developing countries in the critical areas listed above?
* What can international groups like WIGSAT, OFAN and the Gender Advisory
Board do to support women scientists? I'll be happy to talk more about the
mandate and activities of these groups.
* What kinds of networking would best support women scientists in
developing countries, and around which issues or goals? How can email and
other forms of networking be used?
* One of the recommendations of the World Conference on Science was that
UNESCO and UNIFEM should launch national, regional and global campaigns to
raise awareness of the contribution of women to science and technology, in
order to overcome existing gender stereotypes among scientists,
policy-makers and the community at large. What activities can we suggest
to support this mandate?
* UNESCO is also required to undertake *followup activities* to the World
Conference on Science ? what in your view are the priority areas for
followup relating to women and girls?

Sophia Huyer
Women in Global Science and Technology
Once and Future Action Network
623 Brimley Road
Grafton, Ontario K0K 2G0
Tel (1-905) 349-9962
Fax (1-905) 349-2066

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