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[CAIRO] A Yemeni scientist who has been working to establish a network of women scientists in the Arab world is among five researchers to receive the first Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World.

Huda Omer Ba Saleem, a researcher at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Aden University, Yemen, was recognised for her work on cancer, and on the wellbeing of women and children in the Arab region.

The US$5,000 prize was presented to five women scientists in recognition of research excellence, during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston, United States, earlier this month (16 February).


  • The five young winners come from Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nigeria, Peru and Yemen
  • They are 'an inspiration not only to other young women, but to all scientists of every generation'
  • Yemeni winner says support for women's education and science is still weak in her country

The other winners were: Nasima Akhter, from Dhaka Medical College Hospital Campus, Bangladesh; Namjil Erdenechimeg from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Mongolia; Dionicia Gamboa, from Cayetano Heredia University, Peru; and Adediwura Fred-Jaiyesimi, from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria.

The award,
launched in 2012, is a collaboration between the Elsevier Foundation, TWAS (the World Academy of Sciences), and the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD). It aims to build research capacity and advance scientific knowledge throughout the developing world.

"If we hope to solve the challenges that confront developing nations, we must help young women in science to fully develop their skills and energy," said Romain Murenzi, TWAS's executive director in a press release. "The winners of this prize will be an inspiration not only to other young women, but to all scientists of every generation."

David Ruth, executive director of the Elsevier Foundation, tells SciDev.Net that an independent panel evaluated the applicants based on their progress and the impact of their work.

"We support women at the early stages of their careers, through mentoring, research retreats, and building researcher networks," he adds.

Huda Omer Ba Saleem tells SciDev.Net that the Yemeni government suffers from a "lack of vision" when it comes to science, and does not provide enough financial or logistical support to the
research sector.

"Unfortunately our country priorities since the revolution have been unclear, and science is not among these priorities," says Ba Saleem. "People are very conservative and there is not a strong belief in the importance of educating women."

"I was lucky to grow up in a family that appreciated science and encouraged me to travel, finish my studies and have a supportive husband who constantly encourages me," she adds.

Ba Saleem is now also working to build a network for Arab women scientists, funded by the International Development Research Center, to empower women working on
information and communication technologies.

Dionicia Gamboa, another one of the winners, said in a press release: "Recognition like this is rewarding, especially for young
women who are starting out in their careers, but at the same time it commits us to assume greater challenges".

She added that women are increasingly taking leadership roles in science across the developing world, but that the sector still suffers from limited resources and is hampered by poor awareness of the importance of
investing in science and technology.

Link to news release on the awards