“We have to help women come ahead,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first female prime minister of Norway and 2014 Tang Prize winner in Sustainable Development. Dedicating her entire life to promoting the sustainable development of human civilization, Dr. Brundtland is the pioneer in this field who wants to make sure that the torch will be passed on to the younger generation, so that outstanding scientists around the world will be able to give full play to their abilities. So far, the research grant she received from the Tang Prize Foundation has honored and assisted 15 female public health researchers from developing countries, who have visited Taiwan to share their research outcomes, and set up the arena for more interactions and collaborations in the future.
Dr. Brundtland decided to allocate her Tang Prize research funding (10 million NT dollars) to two projects, on the one hand as an award to encourage young female scholars, and on the other as a means to preserve the environment in Africa. To achieve the first goal, she founded the “Gro Brundtland Award,” and entrusted National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) with the selection of female scientists in developing countries working in the fields of public health or environmental protection. Since 2016, NCKU has been organizing various events during the annual “Gro Brundtland Week of Women in Sustainable Development,” and many awardees also made long trips to Taiwan in order to participate. For the past three years, more than two thousand teachers and students have attended the lectures arranged by NCKU, extending the exchange of ideas between young scholars from academy to school campuses.
15 recipients of the “Gro Brundtland Awards” hail from different countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Jordan, Yemen, India, Kenya, Malaysia, the Philippines, Uganda, South Africa and Taiwan. Coming from Pakistan and Bangladesh which do not have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, three awardees had to overcome enormous obstacles to arrive in this island, and the effort they expended is a concrete manifestation of their unswerving devotion to the sustainability of human societies.
Dr. Phyllis Awor from Uganda is a paragon of brave female scholars in East Africa who have to withstand social pressure put on women in order to enhance the quality of childcare in rural areas. She led an innovative introduction of the WHO/UNICEF supported integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea strategy within drug shops in Uganda from 2010 to 2017, which earned her and her research group recognition for social innovation in health care delivery.
Dr. Weena Gera from the Philippines pointed out that in developing countries, economic development has always been the government’s first priority. However, issues such as public health and sustainable ecosystems should also receive careful attention. Unlike other scientists, she delved into the research in this field from the perspectives of governance and public administration. Currently she is looking into the impact of the tripartite co-regulation in Philippine and Indonesian coal mining industries, with special focus on the health and human rights of the mine workers, in the hope that the improvement in regulation and management will create a better mode of sustainable development.
Dr. Bruntdland reminded us that “even in Nordic countries that have been far ahead of many, you had to push for change. You had to help women come ahead. You had to inspire women to there, and to feel that they were no less important than any men.” Only when women are encouraged to speak truth to power and have their talent recognized can the ideas about sustainable development be put into practice more efficiently.
President Huey-Jen Su of NCKU believes that female scientists around the world have great potential to make important contributions in their chosen professions, especially in the healthcare industry, which is the area Taiwan was in lack of good opportunities to offer its advantage in the past. Fortunately, with the influence of Dr. Bruntdland and the activities held during the week of women in sustainable development, Taiwan has become the focal point where leading female scientists from the four corners of the world can meet up to establish working partnerships and offer mutual support. For people in Taiwan, it is a surprising benefit from hosting these events and is undoubtedly a huge boost of morale and confidence.