President of India Opens TWOWS International Conference

“If women are empowered to do science, state-of-the-art research will follow, and science and technology will find application in all of our endeavours.”

Bangalore, India, 21 November 2005.

The president of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, citing the example Madame Curie who won two Nobel Prizes, called upon women scientists to set a forceful agenda that would enable them to become full partners in the global scientific enterprise. He made his remarks at the opening session of the 3rd General Assembly of the Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS), held in Bangalore, India.

Others joining Kalam on the podium included Shri Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister of Science and Technology; V.S. Ramamurthy, Secretary of India’s Department of Science and Technology; C.N.R, Rao, President of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS); Lydia Makhubu, President of TWOWS; Mohamed H.A. Hassan, Executive Director of TWAS; and V. Krishnan, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research and Chair of the Local Organizing Committee.

“Madam Curie,” President Kalam observed, “pulled herself up from poverty and succeeded brilliantly. The work she did, she did with patience, often getting results only after years of careful experimentation. Through the knowledge she gained about radiation, thousands of lives have been saved. The courage and perseverance she showed are indeed remarkable and stimulating.”

India, Kalam noted in his address, enjoys “a long tradition of providing equal opportunity for women to excel in science, dating back to ancient times." Yet Kalam also acknowledged that the prominence of women in science – in fact, the prominence of Indian science as a whole – had faded significantly during centuries of foreign occupation in India.

With independence in 1947, he said, “science in India experienced a resurgence,” which is continuing to this day and accelerating at an ever-faster pace. Women, he went on to say, have played an important role in India’s growing scientific capabilities. He cited the work of Smi Rohini Devi, who led a government team of scientists that developed a carbon brake disk that has met world standards, despite persistent voices of doubt in the developed world that it could be done. The same team is now focusing its attention on nanotubes and functionally graded material that could revolutionize materials used in the aerospace and defence industries. He also cited the work of Bharati Bhat, a scientist employed with the Indian Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Centre for Applied Research in Electronics, who developed a ‘phase array technology’ used to track multiple aircraft and to guide missiles. And he cited the startling career of Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to be a member of the international space shuttle team, flying more than 750 hours in space while conducting scientific experiments designed to investigate the impact of zero gravity on life forms.

The medium for transforming India into a developed nation, Kalam told TWOWS conference participants, is “empowerment” created by knowledge. “If women are empowered to do science,” he predicted, “state-of-the-art research will follow, and science and technology will find application in all of our endeavours.”

“The number of women scientists the world over has been growing at a fast pace. Removing impediments that stand in the way of harvesting this vast pool of brilliant, hardworking and dedicated knowledge,” he urged participants, “should be the focus of the TWOWS 3rd General Assembly.”

The assembly, which has drawn some 400 women scientists from around the world, will continue through Friday 25 November,

With more than 2,500 members, TWOWS is the largest organization of women scientists in the world. The organization seeks to improve the status of women within the scientific community and to provide opportunities for women to gain leadership roles within their societies, The TWOWS secretariat is located in Trieste, Italy.

For additional information about the organization and the 3rd General Assembly, see www.twows.org.

Published: 23 Nov 2005

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