Bolstering the gender research agenda

Gender Summit Africa 2015, which is taking place from 28–30 April 2015 at the International Conference Centre in Cape Town, will stimulate meaningful conversations that will ensure the research agenda around gender issues is strengthened. It will also assist researchers to reflect on how science, technology, infrastructure, capital and skills could lead to material benefits, including for women.

The theme of the summit, co-hosted by the HSRC, is ‘Poverty alleviation and economic empowerment through scientific research and innovation: better knowledge from and for Africa.’

The Gender Summit is a platform that was instituted in 2011 with the objective of using science to better advance societies. Since its initial founding in Europe, it has developed a worldwide community. From the outset, its underlying mission was to focus on actions based on research evidence and agreed-on through consensus. Taken together, the four previous Gender Summits involved a total of 1 900 participants from 800 institutions, located in more than 40 countries.

It is anticipated that by the end of 2015, the size of the Gender Summit community will have doubled and the scope of the Gender Summit platform would have developed further through its expansion into Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. It is therefore important that leaders, experts and practitioners in all regions be connected and supported in the joint mission to improve science and its impact on society by addressing sex-gender issues in the research and innovation process, and ensuring women are the centre of scientific endeavours.

Gender Summit Africa 2015 will take a fresh look at gender issues in science-based knowledge production. It will also strengthen research collaboration with interested parties from around the world. Furthermore, it will accelerate a shared responsibility of promoting gender sensitive science, and will promote research that impacts on public policy.

The co-host and director of the summit is Dr Elizabeth Pollitzer of Portia, UK. She points out that the summit sets a new standard for science-led development measures by emphasising the need for local populations to achieve sustainable economic and societal advancement. She believes understanding local needs and knowledge will demonstrate the true capacity of women scientists in Africa to take a leading role in research and innovation.

The mission of the Gender Summits, namely using science to better advance societies, will also be used in other regions to improve science knowledge by paying equal attention to the needs of women and men, and to the importance of scientific inclusion and diversity to ensure the quality and efficacy of research outcomes for all.

Several summit sponsors have indicated their willingness and eagerness to develop the next generation of core scientists, researchers, managers, leaders and mentors in the area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that would propel Africa forward, with the Department of Science and Technology as one of the main sponsors.

Gender Summit Africa 2015 has several media partners, such as the pan-African digital publication, Mail & Guardian Africa, and International Innovation, which will cover the various deliberations during the summit.

Dr Olive Shisana,