Indigenous knowledge, malaria treatments and gender equality

All over the world, local communities have their own ways of providing medical care and sharing scientific knowledge. In Nigeria, for example, women and girls use indigenous knowledge passed down through the generations to treat diseases such as malaria and dysentery. But, few pursue a formal education in the hard sciences. DiscovHER takes a look at Dr. Jamaine Abidogun and the work she is doing in Nigeria to harness this indigenous knowledge in the hopes of increasing women’s participation in higher education.

Dr. Jamaine Abidogun first made her way to Nigeria in 2004, when she won a Fulbright award to conduct research. During her time, she primarily studied the Igbo culture, where she observed : 

women traditionally hold a significant amount of medical knowledge, even if they’re not officially herbalists. Out of the people that I interviewed… any adult woman could give me the basic remedies for malaria or dysentery.

However, according to her research, this deep medical knowledge very rarely translates to women pursuing formal education in the sciences. She has therefore continued to return to Nigeria, to understand why few women study sciences in higher education and how the indigenous scientific knowledge these women harness can be used in formal education “to help increase women’s participation by the time they get to higher education”.

Her research objective is two-fold: 

1. “to integrate as much indigenous science as possible into the national science curriculum for Nigeria” and 

2. To “see that the historical gender assignments are talked about and included in that curriculum so that girls in particular, but also boys, have a respect for the fact that science is for both genders.”

DiscovHER is inspired by Dr. Abidogun’s initiative to help boost women’s educational opportunities in Nigeria! What do you think? Let us know @4womeninscience

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