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Women’s Day 2022: Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

In honour of International Women’s Day 2022, we contacted Sheila Niinye Twinamatsiko, International Relations Officer at Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda to talk about her experience of finding her way in academia. She talked to us about the importance of women in research, about the involvement of women on all academic levels, and about the importance of female perspectives in academic research.  

What is it like to be a woman in academia? 
“It is great! It feels like a big opportunity. It is noble and relevant, and I feel like I am helping the human race and helping to effect change. It is a big platform to pass on what you know.  
“When women are passionate about what they do, they work with all their heart, they will give everything it takes. But of course, it’s challenging. The different gender balances in the world don’t make it easier. It takes a lot of effort to overcome the patriarchal challenges that we face. Women grow up with the idea that they are inferior, that they will not seize the same opportunities when they are available, and that they forever will be indecisive. 

“Because of the patriarchal systems in our society, it takes much more effort for a woman to have influence in academia. It too often feels like we are being counted in the bigger picture, but our work is still overlooked. In addition, most women have additional roles to take up at home. After a day’s work, a woman has to take care of her household or look after her parents or siblings. There is always extra work. Although it is noble and beautiful to work in academia as a woman, it is challenging.” 
Is there something you would like to say to women who dream of doing research?  

“There are great opportunities for women to do research, but as I said before, it takes extra effort.  
You have to get out of your comfort zone. There may be a moment where you feel discriminated as a woman next to male researchers, who speak up boldly and come up with such nice ideas. You may feel as if you can’t make it because of this feeling. But I encourage other women to show up and be  there, even if they are starting small.”   
“In general, it is so important to keep on funding women in research. As they keep on writing and getting more experience, they will be able to start their own projects. Projects that tackle the issues women are dealing with. If no one is speaking up and funding women in academia, the issues women face daily are not heard.” 
“To give a few more final tips: Look for opportunities and think outside of the 9-5 mentality. Walk up to someone in research and tell them that you are interested. In a research group, allow yourself to be mentored. Even if your contributions are small in the beginning, you will grow into yourself, realise your potential, and fly higher. It takes a lot of zeal, curiosity, and an out-of-the-box mentality. But take it one step at a time and you will get there. I believe that you become what you repeat.” 
Thank you for your inspiring words and for taking the time to talk to us!