Kenyan women in biosciences expressed their concerns on the unpredictable biotechnology and biosafety policy environment and urged government to streamline coordination between relevant regulatory arms to enable research. The women were speaking during the inaugural Women in Biosciences Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya on 20th April, 2017.
Dr. Felister Makini, Deputy Director General (crops) at the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), noted that African women play a critical role in ensuring food security. She urged government to make farming easier for them by providing modern tools such as biotechnology. “As African women, we are the ones who suffer most whenever drought and food shortages strike, despite the availability of technological solutions to these problems” she said. “We need to speak in one voice and advocate for a predictable policy environment. I have children and a family to protect. I cannot advocate for something that I know would affect them” she added.
Hailing Kenyan government’s intention to revive the textile industry by introducing Bt cotton, Dr. Margaret Karembu, Director, ISAAA AfriCenter, observed that despite demonstrated will and long history of safe use “conflicting messages” between different ministries and regulatory agencies were hampering progress in delivering the technology to farmers. She also echoed the need for African women in science to intensify engagement with government and help clarify long-standing misconceptions on the technology.
On her part Prof. Caroline Thoruwa, Chairperson, African Women in Science and Engineering (AWSE), noted that for Africa to advance in agri-biotech, women must be involved. “It is time to tell the public about the positive side of biotechnology. We need to raise up the status of women in biotechnology and also encourage women to network in order to achieve the noble goal of sharing their science” she said.
Participants pledged commitment to speak up for the technology and urged the President and his deputy to increase investment in biotechnology, enhance participation of women scientists in decision making and review the GMO ban to enable advancement of local research, training and innovation.
The forum was attended by over 60 professional woman with interest and passion for science from academia, research, policy and industry. It was organized by ISAAA AfriCenter in partnership with AWSE, Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) and OFAB-Kenya. Its main objective is to bring together women in science to amplify their voices on issues touching on biotechnology and biosafety.