My Passion for Science: Women from Central Asia Share Their Stories

5 March 2021

On 8 March, we celebrate the International Womens Day to pay tribute to the achievements of women worldwide and remind ourselves of what still needs to be done to achieve gender equality.

Today, there is a pressing need for more research, collaboration, data and knowledge sharing to cope with the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and go beyond it. The pandemic has taught us that science can play a critical role in mitigating the crises and serve as a key in better preparedness to future pandemics and resilience of people to crises at large. But can we achieve it with prevailing gender gap in science? Globally, women make only up 33.3% of researchers according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

See more on gender inequality in science here.

8th March is also a great occasion to recognize women who are involved in science, research and engineering or simply are passionate about science. UNESCO Office in Almaty reached out to some of the women in Central Asia asking them to share their stories - what science means to them in their daily lives, how to break stereotypes on science, and what they dream about.

A. Gabdullina

Aliya Gabdullina, Head of Science, Environmental Monitoring and Information Department, UNESCO biosphere reserve Katon-Karagay

I have educational background in biology. For more than 15 years, I have been working in the Science, Environmental Monitoring and Information Department of the Katon-Karagay National Natural Park, including last ten years in the capacities of the Head of Department. Besides the administrative issues, which includes development of work plans, reports, presentations, etc., I am engaged in international scientific cooperation and participate in various projects concerning preservation of regional biodiversity, environmental education and other related issues. In addition, I am also directly involved in scientific research activities.

When it comes to work and future aspirations, I set a goal, make a plan, complete tasks, correct mistakes (if there are any) and achieve certain results. What about dreams? I dream of flying into space. But dreams are meant to be dreams.

What is science to me? It is a particular field of activity, but to engage with it, it should be your vocation and you would probably need support for it. In my opinion, science would need most of ones time.

Every working day has its pros and cons. My family and friends often tell me about moving out of Katon-Karagay, but the reasons why I am staying here so far outweigh the disadvantages.

Most of all, I like the freedom of choice, variety of activities and new opportunities in my work. On one hand, I work in the most remote area of Kazakhstan, far away from regional scientific and cultural centers; on the other, I work with people and organizations from different countries and different fields.

My work gives me new opportunities these are new people, new countries and new experiences that I discover almost every year.

I used to see many difficulties in my work, but having worked for a decade and a half in the national park, there is almost nothing left in my work that I could not cope with, although last year showed that borders closure is a major challenge. As it turned out, I personally need the freedom to move around the world.

What advice can I give to future generations? Learn more, believe in yourself and keep going forward.

L. Dudchenko / The Steppe

Lyubov Dudchenko, hard/software developer, 12th grade student

I chose the field of engineering and robotics for myself, because it is an area that in the future can solve many problems facing humanity today. I started studying robotics since the 7th grade, and now I am actively striving to create something that can be useful for many people.

Of course, my family and friends support and help me in all my endeavors and initiatives. Without their support, nothing would have happened.

Despite the fact that such fields of science are considered predominantly male, I do not feel awkward or uncomfortable doing what I love. Yes, it can be a little scary sometimes. But once you start, immerse yourself in the process, and all the fears fade into background and disappear.

What is science to me? It is primarily an opportunity and a tool. It is something that can solve the global problems of humanity in the future. The most attractive thing about my work is the limitless potential and scope for research. It is at the same time the most difficult one to choose from this variety of options the most suitable opportunity to implement new ideas.

Also, the most important thing is to have the courage and desire to do it.

V. Rakhimova

Valentina Rakhimova, hydrogeologist, PhD, lecturer at Satbayev University, member staff of the Akhmedsafin Institute of Hydrogeology and Geoecology

Since childhood, I was interested in natural sciences, even at school I borrowed the original National Geographic magazines from the library and could not tear myself away from it. It seemed to me that it was super exciting to be a pioneer in space and on Earth, to test yourself and learn the secrets of nature. The work that I do now it is mine; I like what I am doing. It is not difficult for me, it is clear and pleasant for me to do it, and I do not want to postpone it for later. It seems to me that if you feel it yours, then any further research would not seem to be an unbearable task for you, but on the contrary, you will consider it as a new adventure.

At the initial stage of engaging in scientific activities, my parents advised me to find another job, a more prestigious one and higher-paid, thus more suitable for a "girl". And I am very grateful to them for accepting my choice. Today my family fully supports me.

What is science to me? It is an ability to use knowledge and previous experience to create something new (accurate research with a slight touch of creativity).

How to keep up with everything and be successful? In our time, this is simply impossible; the society sets too high standards, especially for women. Combining a career with household chores, raising a child, while at the same time looking good, doing sports and think of self-development is almost unrealistic.

It is important, firstly, to accept this fact, and then to prioritize what is more important to you now. Then, based on the identified priorities, make a plan or a checklist for maintaining the most important areas of your life, while reducing the time wasted on social media and other stuff.

I would say, I wish the field of science I am engaged with (my profession is closely linked to the natural sciences, and my research to finding new groundwater deposits, cleaning it from heavy metal contamination, etc.) becomes more popular and significant in the future, both in science and industry, and not just turns into a rudiment of geology. Actually, I wish the same (note: popularity and significance) for science in general. I prefer not to dream, but to set goals for myself, plan those out through stages, and step-by-step move towards their achievement.

M. Sodikova

Sodikova Mukhabbat, member of several expeditions to glaciers

I live in a small village of Tepar, which is located in Uzbekistan. I was married and I am a mother of three wonderful children. I have also been working at a high-mountain avalanche station for more than ten years.

For me, science is a focused study of some particular field of knowledge or a subject. Moreover, it should necessarily provide a concrete result.

I can surely say that any kind of activity can involve both men and women. There are no male-only or female-only professions. All obstacles are in our minds. I actually think that women and girls are in a way more inclined to science. Why do I think so? For example, the motherhood. It is the same science: to take care of a child, to raise him as a person, to give a good education. All this requires unlimited patience, a huge amount of love and, of course, knowledge. Much is learned through trial and error.

Concerning my direct involvement in scientific activities, I took part in an expedition entitled "Women and glaciers in Central Asia" to the Golubin glacier in Kyrgyzstan. I also participated in another expedition to the Barkraksay glacier in Uzbekistan.

Was it hard for me? Rather no, than yes. I was very happy to participate in these expeditions. I like this kind of activity, and I can say with confidence that I love my job. I really want to continue in the same spirit, participating in new expeditions and gaining more experience. My family and loved ones always support me in my hobbies and endeavors.

Glaciers are our natural treasures. It is very interesting to learn about the history of their formation, their mass, thickness, depth, cracks, moraines, etc.

If we talk about difficulties, then you can face those in any job. When working on a glacier, the first thing you need is self-confidence and, most importantly, courage. You also would need experience in working with special tools and devices.

The most amazing thing about it is, of course, the nature. It is hard to find the right words to describe the beauty and majesty of a glacier; you just need to feel it.


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