Dr Coletha Mathew : «It’s not easy for women to advance in science at the same pace as men. I am grateful for the grant provided to me by Afrique One-ASPIRE to allow me do my research»

8 March 2022

For many years, Afrique One–ASPIRE has been involved in women’s development in science. Over 25 women fellows have received support from Afrique One-ASPIRE. In providing accompanying measures, Afrique One-ASPIRE enables women to overcome challenges in their research careers.

In this interview, Dr Coletha Mathew, lecturer at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania tells us about the support received from Afrique-One ASPIRE in her career.


Afrique One-ASPIRE : What challenges do you have as a woman in science?

For me, the main challenge is getting a balance between my carrier and my family and moving at the pace that the scientific community expects. As a woman, you shoulder a bigger role in the family, for instance, taking care of children (not to mention the time wasted in case you have a difficult pregnancy, maternity leave), helping children with their school assignments, making sure they are clean, they eat etc. At the same time as a lecturer, although your primary role is to teach (the load is increasing yearly as a result of increased enrolments) you are expected to publish. Publishing requires you to do research which is equally demanding in terms of time and other resources. Doing research requires financial resources, which are not automatically provided. Hence, you have to write competitive proposals that allow you to win – often in a competition with men. A good quality proposal requires time and focus. A woman who is burdened with household chores, childcare and the primary goal of teaching will not have enough time, energy and the focus needed to write a winning proposal. As a result, it is not easy for women to progress in science at the same pace as men.


Afrique One-ASPIRE : Which type of support has Afrique One-ASPIRE provided to allow you to reconcile a research career with other duties?

I am grateful for the grant provided to me by Afrique One-ASPIRE to allow me do my research. Being able to work in a research group, where you are mentored and at the same time you mentor juniors was a great experience.


Afrique One-ASPIRE : Who is your female role model?

My mother is my role model. To me she is a superhero, God fearing, with good heart, easily forgiving, and hard working. In science, it is Maria Stokstad, my PhD supervisor.


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