The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter, aiming to highlight the need to build a gender-balanced world, which is essential for economies and communities to thrive.
We spoke to Mwaka Ismail Juma, a PhD student at Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology in Tanzania, about how she views balance in her scientific career and personal life.
Mwaka, tell us a bit about yourself and your research
I am a married mother of five children working as an Assistant Lecturer at Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology. I am also a PhD student supported by funding from the Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative, working on renewable energy generation with a team from Congo Brazzaville, Uganda and the UK.
My research project is titled ‘Development of micro grid model for scalable hybrid renewable energy power generation’ and focuses on improving the reliability of power produced from renewable sources including solar power.
What have been your proudest achievements on a personal and professional level since starting your PhD studies?
On a personal level, the funding for my PhD supports my salary which has allowed me to pay for all of my children to attend school. This is very important to me because over two million children eligible for primary education in Tanzania are not enrolled in a school, therefore limiting their opportunities.
My proudest professional achievement has been participating in the Institute of Engineers Tanzania Women’s Chapter and encouraging girls to study science subjects especially in secondary schools. At the last event held by this organisation, I was a judge on a panel with other female scientists from education, non-governmental organisations, business and industry, to judge science projects by girls supported through the Institute of Engineers.
What impact will your research have on communities in Tanzania?
Over the next few years, there is anticipated to be an increase in the number of hybrid power systems deployed to rural areas across Tanzania. These systems typically incorporate both solar and battery power in order to provide a sustainable power supply.
Many people in rural villages complain about the lack of reliability in these systems with many facing regular blackouts as a result of poor quality energy production methods. An example of this is Zanzibar Island where locals frequently have to buy power from mainland Tanzania as the local grid provides an unstable supply of electricity.
My research should improve the lives of many in rural communities in Tanzania by integrating different renewable energy systems into hybrid power systems and therefore ensuring a consistent supply of electricity to remote communities.
What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to have a career in science?
It is essential that you build strong support networks both personally and professionally. It is also very important to continue to raise other female scientists up; mentoring and supporting school students will lead to increased prosperity and gender equality in science.