African-European cooperation for the promotion of women in science – FIRE@DHBW
Selected locations of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) welcomed a delegation of female African scientists from the 11 to 18 September, all of which are members of the newly established FIRE@DHBW, or Female International Research Network, which aims to promote up-and-coming female talent in science. Together with female professors of the DHBW, corporate partners and regional players, they seek to initiate international research cooperation projects. The delegation, which consisted of eleven people, including vice-chancellors, department leaders and professors from different universities in Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda, demonstrated a pronounced interest on arrival in research in the areas of technology, renewable energy, microplastics, sustainable tourism and de-colonial social work.
Prof. Dr. Karin E. Sauer, who lectures at the School of Social Work, and Prof. Dr. Wendy Fehlner, Professor for Business Administration – Tourism, Hotel Industry and Gastronomy and Equal Opportunities Officer at the DHBW Lörrach, organized the program together with the Project Coordinator, Prof. Dr. Sabine Möbs, Professor for Business Informatics in Business Administration – International Business and Business Administration – Digital Business Management at the DHBW Heidenheim. Prof. Dr. Barbara Schramkowski, Head of the Social Work – Youth, Family and Social Welfare Services Department, supported the project with an introduction to sustainability and climate activism in Freiburg. Prof. Dr. Anja Teubert, Head of the Social Work with the Disabled Department, led a discussion in Villingen-Schwenningen on the prevention of sexualized violence at universities. As a DHBW partner, the Jugendhaus Spektrum youth center in Schwenningen presented its mobile youth work and community work to the guests.
Prof. Dr. Sauer accompanied the group as a contact for the duration of its stay, and she noted the significance of the reception held by DHBW President, Prof. Dr. Martina Klärle, in the DHBW headquarters for the group and His Excellency, Dr. Abdallah Possi, the Tanzanian ambassador. She also noted the visit to the Wo ist Afrika (Where is Africa) exhibition in Stuttgart’s Lindenmuseum as an important kick-off event. “The exhibition visualizes the shared colonial history of Germany and certain African countries, provoking a committed exchange among the female scientists regarding their possible approach to their different backgrounds and the technical focus of new interdisciplinary research projects.” Issues regarding global responsibility for basic planetary needs are crystallized as a result, including climate justice, the prevention of violence, and dealing with remembrance in post-conflict societies.
“From the perspective of de-colonial, participative action research, we should dedicate ourselves to the research of the violent past we share, a past with consequences that are still felt by all involved today. In particular, women are still subject to discrimination at a number of different levels in the scientific community. We can continue to write a new chapter in this history together with the FIRE network, overcoming outdated power structures.” Prof. Dr. Sauer regards the ideas that have developed in this context as visionary.
The African scientists viewed their first visit to the DHBW locations as extremely positive. They began to expand the new network during their trip, making it more viable. Reciprocal invitations were issued to online events, cooperations were agreed on publications, and a student exchange with the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS) the Rwandan higher learning institution which is a partner of the DHBW Villingen-Schwenningen, was reactivated following a break necessitated because of the pandemic. And the conclusion of the entire group? “We are all on FIRE!”