PUBLISHED: Gender responsive multidisciplinary doctoral training program: The CARTA experience
Enrolment and completion of doctoral training in the continent are fraught with gender inequalities which contribute negatively to Africa’s contribution to global knowledge production and research. In general, Africans—who constitute 1.1 percent of the world’s scientific researchers—have authored just about 1.4 percent of all globally published research. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa constitute only 30 percent of the continent’s researchers.
The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) is cognisant of women’s gender roles that likely affect their enrolment in, and completion of, doctoral programs. The article published in October, Gender responsive multidisciplinary doctoral training program: the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) experience, describes CARTA’s approach in challenging gender inequities in enrolment and completion of doctoral studies across the continent.
Commenting on the publication, Anne Khisa, the lead author of the paper and alumni of the program, attests to the gender-sensitive response of CARTA to its fellows’ needs saying that it “meets women’s practical needs around childbearing and childrearing.”
Some of the CARTA interventions that make the merit-based fellowships accessible to, and supportive of, female fellows include:
- The different cut-off age for applicants, female (45 years old) and male (40 years old). This is in response to women who may start their PhD studies later in life owing to childbearing or family caring obligations.
- CARTA PhD fellows can enrol at any one of the African partner universities, including their home institution. Thus, compatible with other gendered roles that would have limited their participation or progress in a doctoral training program that required them to leave their home.
- CARTA adds value to what various universities offer by running a set of four interdisciplinary joint advanced seminars (JAS) offered at strategic times during the PhD journey. This exposes fellows to alternative learning and teaching environments. The JASs constitute four one-month long residential programs that bring the fellows in each cohort together with an international faculty teaching a specially crafted curriculum. Attendance at each JAS is mandatory for both male and female fellows. Therefore, to ensure that CARTA female participants can fully participate in the JAS’s, while also fulfilling their gendered roles as mothers and child carers, CARTA supports a breastfeeding mother to attend the JAS with her baby and a childminder. The program covers the full cost for the fellow, the child, and the childminder.
- CARTA fellows who request it, get a leave of absence during their maternity leave. Such fellows continue with their fellowship award upon return. They are thus not penalized in any way and eventually enjoy the same benefits as non-pregnant female fellows or male fellows.
The authors in the open-access publication published in the Global Health Action journal, posit that: “Women in the CARTA program have had their practical needs met during training and this has supported them to maintain on-time graduation rates that are similar to their male counterparts. Also, some of the female fellows have advanced in the academy, reaching positions of power and in decision-making. While the CARTA program has managed to address practical gender needs, structural barriers like unequal pay and unfair workloads can be addressed by working with institutions to change their policies.”
The link to the paper is available here.
Note to the Editor:
CARTA is an Africa-based, Africa-led initiative to rebuild and strengthen the capacity of African universities to produce well-trained and skilled researchers and scholars locally. CARTA consists of eight African universities, four African research centers, and nine non-African partners. The consortium seeks to address the scarcity of a robust research and training infrastructure capable of offering vibrant and sustained doctoral training necessary to attract, train, and retain the continent’s brightest minds. The consortium is a collaboration jointly led by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Kenya, and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), South Africa.
The program has raised more than $40 million over the last ten years and has supported more than 200 doctoral students and 30 post-doctoral researchers. Also, the consortium has led interventions to strengthen research engagement at participating African universities in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa. The primary focus of CARTA is in public and population health anchored on a robust transdisciplinary perspective.
The authors are available for interviews. For media queries, contact:
CARTA Communications Officer