Ms Azinwi Ngum Nkwah is a graduate from the University of Reading (UK) where she studied for an MSc in Food Security and Development as a Chevening Scholar. Before this, she held various leadership positions and has worked for close to four years in programming and volunteerism in the development sector. She also holds a Masters degree in Rural Economics and Agribusiness from the University of Yaounde II,SOA. She is passionate about research and hopes to build a career in academia in the field of food and nutrition security. Her debut paper entitled “Mobile Phone Use, Transaction Costs, and Price: Evidence from Rural Vegetable Farmers in Cameroon” was published in the Journal of African Business in 2017. She is currently working on her 2nd publication focusing on the home-grown school feeding programme.
Why did you get into STEM?
All through my secondary school years, I was in the science classes. I thought I would build a career in pure science, but here I am, not in pure science but researching on issues that affect our everyday lives. In the world where development challenges continue to sprout, I believe social science should be more context-specific to provide need-based solutions. Being part of this ecosystem, providing knowledge that would contribute to changing the narratives even for the most remote places drives my passion for STEM.
Also, it is not until recently that more young women are beginning to gain interest in STEM, deciding to take up STEM for was a means to break the stereotype associated with these fields.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
As at now, my highest achievement is seeing other young people, particularly girls looking up to me as their mentor in the field of food and agricultural research. Also, understanding how relevant my research is to contemporary development challenges gives me a sense of fulfilment.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM, and how did you overcome them?
Agricultural research, which is part of STEM, is mostly dominated by men and being a young African woman, it becomes even more challenging. There is always that “unknown” force from people who don’t even know you and sometimes relatives to ask “why all this school, …you need to slow down and start thinking of a family”. But, I always try to focus on the big picture. I also try to speak to both men and women in the field whom I see as mentors and get some advice and inspiration to stay on track.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
I would say, it is never going to be an essay path. But it takes passion, consistency and determination to break the odds in the industry just like in other sectors. Find your niche and focus on it.