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A network has been created to promote the role of Muslim women scientists in science and technology development.

The Islamic Network for Women Scientists (INWS) was announced at a meeting of the Consultative Council for the Implementation of the Strategy for the Development of Science and Technology in the Islamic Countries held in Rabat, Morocco last week (28 July).

The announcement follows a recommendation made at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in March (see Islamic conference boosts S&T with new resolutions). It will be officially approved at the Islamic Conference of Ministers of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Baku, Azerbaijan, in October.

The network will help women scientists to share experiences and network more efficiently at the national level. Activities include setting up a database of Muslim women scientists, organising training programmes and disseminating information about funding available for joint research projects.

INWS will highlight scientific achievements from female Muslim scientists and cooperate with similar international and regional networks such as the Bahrain-based Arab Network of Science and Technology for Women (See Arab network for women in science launched).

The network also intends to promote the establishment of national committees for promoting the role of Muslim women in science and technology, and encourage Muslim women to apply more for regional awards and prizes, such as the Islamic Development Bank's Prize for Women's Contribution in Development.

A study commissioned by the OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation in April found that there are only 18 women scientists among the top 381 OIC scientists.

"Women constitute half the intellectual potential of nations, but only a few OIC countries are encouraging women to adopt scientific careers," says Syeda Tanvir Naim, a consultant to the OIC and a member of the UN Advisory Board on Women and Science.

"Women in Pakistan are increasingly adopting engineering careers, although their ratio to the total enrolments has not exceeded ten percent. "

"There are also very few women elected members of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences or TWAS (the Academy of Sciences for developing world)," adds Naim.