An insightful panel discussion on building inclusive work spaces was the focus of International Women’s Day 2020 celebrations at ICRISAT, Mali, earlier this month.
The panel discussion was a unique opportunity for staff members to share their concerns and views on initiatives to be put in place to support an inclusive workplace that embraces diversity and equal opportunity for work-life balance.
The panel comprised of Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional and Research Program Director, ICRISAT- West and Central Africa (WCA); Dr Robert Zougmore, Team Leader, CCAFS in Africa; Dr Jummai O Yila, Scientist, Gender Research, ICRISAT; Mrs Binta Henriette Traore, Head, Regional Administration and Finance, World Vegetable Center-WCA; Dr Catherine Dembele, Tree Scientist/Domestication, World Agroforestry Centre; Ms Awa Drabo, entrepreneur, and Intern at ICRISAT; and Dr Birhanu Zemadin Birhanu, Senior Scientist, Land and Water Management, WCA to the panel was moderated by Ms Agathe Diama, Head, Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA.
Some of the key points of discussion were:
- Can both female and male colleagues share their views about their biases about women in science?
- What do you think about setting up a positive discrimination policy?
- For effective and productive work outcome with a good balance on family and individual heath, how
can a family-friendly work environment be created
for young mothers with infants?
- How can we make recruitment to top management position without gender bias?
- Is the gender “equality” goal realistic?
- Can you tell us about a time when you felt that your gender was impacting your job?
During the panel discussion, the issue of establishing a crèche to support young mothers at the workplace was deliberated on for a long time. The Women’s Forum noted with delight that the leadership was in favor of supporting this need. Consequently, the Forum set up a committee of four female employees to determine requirements for setting up the crèche.
Key quotes from the panelists:
Dr Robert Zougmore: I had other options when I got the offer from my current job. My wife advised me to join ICRISAT. She promised to support me in this decision and therefore stood by me. As they say, along with every great man is a great woman. Regarding positive discrimination to enhance women representation, I think we have good examples out there with UN system that ICRISAT and other centers can look up to.
Dr Birhanu Zemadin Birhanu: We have to redefine the mission of the international women’s movement which started in 1911. More than a century later, have we achieved the goal? Are we there? We found that in the rural areas, households headed by men are still heavily dominating the resources. In some communities when we improved the degraded lands, they were taken by village chief and given to male-headed households. There are many such difficult issues on the ground that we need to touch upon.
Dr Catherine Dembele: I think equality is not a mathematical equality. We have to go back to the basics, that is, equal rights. For instance, ‘He has the right to go to school; she has the right to go to school.’
Dr Jummai O Yila: It is important for women to identify their niche and strengths and capitalize on that while working on other areas of weakness. In addition, as women, we should find and surround ourselves with people who encourage us. A woman must believe in herself to be able to deliver in the different areas of assignments and aspire for better and higher position. Everyone around must recognize the need for women to be there, and actively find ways to bringin capable women for decision-making/leadership positions, because they can deliver.
Mrs Binta Henriette: I have had the chance to meet some supervisors and leaders who understood when I needed to make arrangements regarding my personal time. For me, equality is more about complementarity and finding ways of understanding each other needs.
Ms Awa Drabo: I would like to see a processput in place to enhance equity so that our particular qualities are considered, without each time putting us on the same equal footing, which does not make much sense.
The Women’s Forum on ICRISAT campus at Samanko research station, organized the celebration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) this year on 13 March.
The second activity took place at Camp Kangaba (in suburb of Bamako) and consisted of in-group discussions, family photo, lunch and various games and play by the women.