AWARD fellows from Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia showcased excellent progress in their agricultural research and development work at a share fair during the Southern Africa Regional Forum held in Lilongwe, Malawi, from April 14 – 16, 2015. The Southern Africa Regional Forum provided fellows an opportunity to network, learn and share the knowledge they have gained during the course of their AWARD Fellowship, including the formal mentorship program.
During the share fair event, AWARD Mentors acted as the judging panel, assessing fellows' presentation skills, progress in the lab, their interactions with smallholder farmers, influence within their institutions and the wider agricultural research and development sector. As part of their participation in the fellowship, AWARD Fellows are required to act as a mentor to a junior scientist, in their field. Fellows' collaboration with their mentees was also assessed by the judges, who were keen to see the evidence of the fellows' progress.
As a result of the AWARD courses in leadership, proposal and science writing, fellows talked of having improved their skills in these core areas, contributing to career growth. AWARD Fellows also gained visibility within their institutions and internationally through participation in conferences and publishing their research results. “Because of the AWARD proposal writing training, I wrote a winning proposal to the Google-funded Women Enhancing Technology (WE Tech),” said Madalitso Zelda Chidumu, a 2014 post-Bachelor's fellow.
Fellows also spoke of personal growth as a result of participating in the AWARD program. “I am more confident, assertive and ready to make a difference in the lives of those around me,” Sharon Ndalula, a post-Master's fellow from Zambia. N'sira Aurea Sylla, a post-Bachelor's fellow from Mozambique credits the leadership course for improving her communication and conflict management skills.
“If we leave the women behind – that leaky pipeline— we will not be able to make progress in society,”
said Dr. Rafael Uaiene, AWARD Mentor working at the Michigan State University, based in Maputo, Mozambique. “It is not only fellows who learn,” said the mentor, adding that being an AWARD mentor gave opportunity to inspire younger scientists.
“Mentoring is a two-way process, I have benefitted from being a mentor,” said Patricia Mayuni, National Dairy Coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development in Malawi. “I have built my networks and have been inspired,” said Mayuni whose first encounter with AWARD was as a fellows' mentee. She credits AWARD for inspiring her to further her education by enrolling for a doctoral degree.