African Network of Women in Astronomy (AfNWA)

What is AfNWA?

The African Network of Women in Astronomy (AfNWA) is an initiative that aims to connect women working in astronomy and related fields in Africa. It was established in September 2020 as one of the committees under AfAS. With AfNWA we would like to guarantee future participation of girls and women at all levels in astronomy and science developments in Africa. Our main objectives are improving the status of women in science in Africa, and using astronomy to inspire more girls to do STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Why AfNWA is needed?

Considering the latest report of the UNESCO and UN-WOMEN, the number of female researchers in the world (both part- and full-time) is on average < 30% (UNESCO, 2019). For most of the countries this number becomes even lower when STEM fields are considered. Therefore, globally we are facing a huge gender gap in science. In Africa most of the countries have a number of female scientists below 25%, however the difference varies from one country to another, such are Tunisia with 55%, Ethiopia with 13%, or Chad with < 5 % of female researchers. We know that many factors could be responsible for the low number of female scientists (e.g., poverty and access to education, social constraints, cultural biases and beliefs, lack of female mentors and role models, etc.), but the final result is that these difficulties mean we are losing huge potential that could benefit our society. We will never be able to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without giving our best to empower ~ 50% of world populations made up of girls and women. Astronomy and space sciences are currently experiencing significant growth in Africa. With AfNWA initiative we would like to guarantee female participation at all levels of these new and important developments for the benefit of all. AfNWA objectives however cannot be achieved without the full support and participation of the whole society.

Who is behind AfNWA initiative?

Mirjana Pović (Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, Ethiopia)
Vanessa McBride (Office of Astronomy for Development-IAU, South Africa)
Priscilla Muheki (Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda)
Carolina Ödman-Govender (University of the Western Cape, South Africa)
Somaya Saad (National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics, Egypt)
Nana Ama Brown Klutse (University of Ghana, Ghana)

Who is supporting AfNWA?

We greatly acknowledge the support of:

  • South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) through the support given to the African Astronomical Society
  • Nature Research and Estée Lauder through the Mirjana Pović’s inaugural 2018 Nature Research Award for Inspiring Science