Levelling the playing field for female academics to access scholarships and research funds

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Although the balance of male to female academics in environmental health in Africa has improved
over the years, there is still inequity between the academic genders. Recent evidence suggests that
female academics are often found on a lower grade and salary on the University hierarchical scale
compared with their male and slightly younger counterparts. To achieve equity in research and
knowledge management of female environmental health issues in Africa, it is imperative that
gender balance is achieved within academic practice. Lifestyle and work patterns of male and
female academics require to be taken cognisance of by donor agencies when determining the
eligibility criteria to apply for scholarships to study for higher degrees. Female academics often
have to withdraw from the academic field for childbirth, child rearing in the first few years. In
addition to fulfilling their role as mothers they are also the care givers within the family they are
still expected to undertake the usual domestic chores of a wife and care for elderly relatives, unlike
their male counterparts in comparison. All of which places female academics at a disadvantage in
status upon return to work. After extensive consultation with both male and female academics
working in the field of environmental health in Africa, the Africa Academy for Environmental
Health (AAEH) advocate three recommendations for funding bodies and higher education
institutions to adopt in their policies: (1) Increase age restrictions in donor scholarship and
funding applications for female academics to accommodate their maternal and domestic
responsibilities; (2) Scholarship awarding bodies should actively promote funding of split site and
home based postgraduate studies. This would provide an equal opportunity for female academics
to attain quality qualifications irrespective of their maternal and domestic commitments and
ensure research is gender balanced and specific to the African context; and (3) Universities should
implement effective mentoring schemes in place to support the needs of junior academics and
develop their research and teaching skills.
Original languageEnglish
TypePolicy brief
Number of pages2
Place of Publicationonline
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • female academics
  • scholarships
  • research funds
  • higher education institutes


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