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Will women, men or all of us together eliminate malaria?

March 25, 2021 - 14:24 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

A few weeks ago I noticed the announcement of a new conference: the WiM—the Women in Malaria conference. I thought "wow, that's quite something" and expected that it would be some sort of (follow up on the) Women in Vector Control Workshop that the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA) organised just prior to it's 2019 annual conference in Yaoundé, Cameroon. I was truly moved by what happened during that symposium. Experiences of gender-related discrimination, harassment, subordination and oppression of women in education and science. Shocking. During the conference it became clear that every single woman in the audience had experienced some kind of gender-related discrimination in her career, regardless of her age, nationality or geographical location.

And now I was curious about WiM. But when I looked it up I understood that WiM is a regular malaria conference but this time only women are invited as speakers. And I couldn't help but think what if someone would announce the MiM—the Men in Malaria conference where only men would be invited to speak... Do we need to segregate between female and male expertise combat malaria? Or do we need to listen to and argue with those with the best expertise, ideas, and feedback 'from the field' regardless their gender, race, religion or believe.

What is it that I am missing here?

Let me know what you think!

Comments

Submitted by Charles Brown on

Tackling malaria should be a "all hands on deck" fight. Segregation will not work i.e WiM and MiM. A big NO. If WiM is to encourage more women in malaria research then it could come under a bigger umbrella organisation/association.

Submitted by Miles Markus on

What can happen if people are made to feel ignored, marginalized or discriminated against is e.g. the WiM conference (which was most interesting) – an entirely logical outcome. Something has to (or can) give, as in this instance. Whose fault is it? Not that of WiM, I suggest. Try doing some soul-searching.

This aside, the viewpoint of Ingeborg and Charles that WiM and MiM must work together is obviously correct. What immediately comes to mind is that the MAM2020 conference in Australia had a 50%:50% female:male speaker ratio.

By the way (related to the WiM subject), I was lucky enough to have Elizabeth U. Canning as my PhD advisor. She was the perfect supervisor.

Submitted by Miles Markus on

P.S. to my previous comment:

The WiM conference was clearly also the result of a "team spirit" which prevails amongst WiM.

Submitted by Majo Carrasco T... on

Last week, in the newsletter, we were asked if there is a need to segregate between male and female knowledge in scientific conferences instead of integrating knowledge that can help us all in this difficult journey of eliminating malaria. 

Reading about the Women in Malaria conference I saw it as an opportunity rather than a barrier. Traditionally, women have been excluded from work outside their homes, the scientific world and public spaces, among many others. Women leading their own projects and sharing their knowledge in a conference does not mean that research and/or implementation activities will be conducted only by women. It means that these women are leaders (not a traditional role for women either) and willing to share their experiences in a (virtual) public space that we are reclaiming for ourselves too. 

Looking a few decades back a conference where only men were invited to speak would have been the usual. It wouldn't even have been necessary to tell that only men were speaking because that was expected. Being a only-male speakers conference the "normal" it is necessary to mention when a conference is lead only by women. Even now, there are more male than female speakers in most conferences. This might be explained because of less numbers of women working in scientific research but structurally this suggests that women in general have less access to higher education and when we do, we choose "soft" sciences rather than scientific ones. 

Lastly, I think having only-women speakers is inspirational to future generations, it opens the discussion to another perspective and maybe (and hopefully) one day it won't be necessary to have a separate space. 

Submitted by Selvi Subramaniam on

To be honest, I had the exact same thought as you did (i.e., MiM) when I first came across the online WiM conference anouncement.
First of all, I don't understand why there should be segregation of the expertise of men and women who work in the malaria field. I strongly agree that women are no less competent than men. 

In my humble opinion, I think everyone should work together as a team with mutual respect and tolerance regardless of their gender, race, religion or belief. The work should be done together with love and passion by putting the ultimate goal of saving people's lives at the forefront. If everyone (both men & women) thinks alike genuinely that they are doing the work, not for the benefit of themselves but rather to save children, people, community, country and the world from the malaria menace; and thus I believe there would not be any room for argument or differences of ideas, expertise and feedback.

Finally with that note, "Let's not segregate between men and women expertise but work together as a team to fight against malaria".

Selvi

Submitted by Miles Markus on

If you can access the article in Trends in Parasitology (link provided below), read about the successful 2021 Women in Malaria conference. Also about, inter alia, affliction of the malaria research field by "... biases ... in ... individual and collective mindsets, and behaviours". This is not only gender-related.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2021.04.001