Photo credit Anna Nilsen“If I can contribute to making a positive change in the life of a single woman, it will give me sufficient inspiration to continue my work with gender equality”, says Nashwa Eassa.
She lives and works in Sudan and has received several international prizes for her research in physics. Between 2005 and 2007, she took the international master’s programme in material physics and nanotechnology at LiU. Nashwa Eassa enjoyed her years in Sweden. Her studies were successful: she received the support she needed, although certain parts were highly demanding.
“I was fortunate to study at Linköping University before Sweden introduced tuition fees for students from outside Europe. This was an enormous help to me, without it I wouldn’t have been able to study. But I had to live and eat as well, so I made ends meet by working at McDonalds and distributing advertising.”
Photo credit Peter Holgersson ABNashwa Eassa’s career as a successful researcher in physics, however, is not the reason she has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Science and Engineering at LiU. The doctorate is recognition for her work to disseminate research and support the possibilities of women to participate in education and research in her home country, Sudan.
“Women in academia must work twice as hard to prove that they are competent. Men don’t have to exert themselves in the same way. I can see this structure everywhere: in Sudan, in other developing countries, and also in Sweden. Men have the top jobs in the academic world. Much remains to be done here.”
In 2013, she founded the organisation “Sudanese Women in Science”, to support women researchers in Sudan. She is also involved in OWSD, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing Countries, where she supports young women from countries such as Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, Ghana, Benin and Syria who are aiming for an academic career. The organisation currently encompasses 400 women.
“Many women with a degree give up their academic career when they get married. They start a family and feel pressure from their family and society to stay at home and look after the children. Support from other women in the academic world may be decisive to them continuing their career”, says Nashwa Eassa.
Photo credit Peter Holgersson ABThe support that women’s organisations offer can, in addition to personal contact, be the collection of money for scholarships, training in scientific writing, how to choose an appropriate scientific journal for publication, and courses in leadership.
Many of the women who gain employment in research are eager to pay back to society.
No matter what subject they are working in, they are fervent about paying back. Some come from impoverished backgrounds in the countryside, and teach women the best methods they can use in agriculture. They bring a scientific approach to the practical work so that the women can in this way gain as high a yield as possible from the crops.
In the same way, women researchers can spread new knowledge in, for example, public health and medicine.
“Not only that, they also function as inspiration for girls and young women, and show that it is possible for them to go to university, if they can receive scholarships and the right support.”
Photo credit Anna NilsenThe work Nashwa Eassa performs for gender equality requires a long-term vision and courage, even though she has never thought of herself as brave. Patriarchal structures are major obstacles to her work, but she never feels afraid or threatened in Sudan. She has a strong passion to help women, and she can see that her work and that of the organisations is giving results.
“We are opening doors into the academic world for more women, and in itself that makes me feel good”, she says.
She hopes that the award of an honorary doctorate from LiU will bring more attention to her work with gender equality, and thus help to benefit more young women.
“I was speechless when they told me that I had been awarded an honorary doctorate. It’s a great honour. I’m convinced that it can also provide motivation for girls and young women – they see that traditional patterns can be broken, and they can gain the courage required to invest in their future.”
Translated by George Farrants