Home » ICBA announces third cohort of graduates from AWLA program

ICBA announces third cohort of graduates from AWLA program

by Madaline Dunn

The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) recently held a ceremony at its headquarters to celebrate International Women’s Day and the graduation of the third cohort of fellows of the Arab Women Leaders in Agriculture (AWLA) program.

The AWLA program serves as a platform for early- and mid-career women professionals across agricultural disciplines to exchange ideas and experiences and collaborate on various projects targetting enhancing food, water, and nutrition security regionally. 

It is the first of its kind in the MENA region.

The third edition of AWLA, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, included a mix of virtual and e-learning courses targeted at improving the fellows’ research, leadership and project management skills.

Twenty women scientists from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, and the UAE completed an eight-month program.

It was highlighted that empirical evidence indicates that, regionally, a disproportionately low number of women work in senior research and leadership positions. In fact, the average share of women researchers across the region stands at 17 per cent, which is the lowest in the world. 

ICBA shared that this gap is most visible in the staffing of agricultural research and extension organisations. 

“This means that policy and investment measures in agriculture might not be as effective as they could be because they do not fully reflect gender perspectives.”

The AWLA was designed to narrow this gap in 2016 through a partnership between ICBA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). 

It launched in 2019, also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat in 2019. 

The first and second cohorts of fellows included 38 women scientists from seven countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and the UAE.

Speaking about the current landscape, H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Chair of ICBA’s Board of Directors, said: “Although women constitute, on average, about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, they have fewer rights and resources; less than 20 percent of the world’s landholders are women. Alas, the situation in science is similarly disheartening. Approximately, 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women. While these figures are sobering, they should not deter us from continuing to work towards our shared goal. If anything, we must intensify our efforts to address gender inequality in all its forms. After all, closing the gender gap will not only bolster sustainable growth and innovation, but is also considered an economic imperative.”

Ultimately, the program’s long-term goal is to improve food security and nutrition in the region by empowering women researchers.

Dr. Tarifa Alzaabi, Director General of ICBA, commented: “The AWLA program supports the research showing that women are critical for innovation and opens doors for more opportunities in the research and development sector not only in the Middle East and North Africa but globally as well. This is tackled in the program by equipping women scientists from the region with skills and resources to advance their personal and professional growth. But we are also working on other initiatives that address gender issues at various levels. At COP28, we launched a new global initiative called the Women Alliance for Climate Action in Agriculture to mobilize efforts and partners for driving women-led climate action around the world.”

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