Women in Science and Mother Sciences in the 21st century

March 12, 2018
Fayyaz Baqir
O’Brien Fellow
Center for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP), McGill University

Women’s contribution to sciences is not well recognized due to men’s inability to see the obvious. If it was not for women the human race would not learn to communicate. Women’s superb skills in teaching children to flawlessly speak their language make us social and places us above all other species in the animal kingdom. Women’s effortless command over the methods for teaching language would put to shame the entire corpus of knowledge on pedagogy. Women also pioneered the art of agriculture and helped turn hunting, fishing and grazing communities into settled communities enabling them to pursue development of various branches of knowledge without interruption. That is why we use the expressions mother tongue, motherland and mother earth. It is so strange that we don’t use the expression mother sciences, while we talk of social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Part of the reason is that knowledge, care and economic services provided by women were considered as ‘free gift of nature’. Their compassion to keep the family- the basic cell constituting human society- together was never made part of social accounting. They were rewarded for their contributions by denying the value of their work.

Women deviating from their stereotypical role were persecuted so viciously that the word typically used for obscurantist oppression is witch hunting. While men fought two World Wars during the twentieth century, women tended to nurse the injured, heal the wounded and keep the wheel of production moving to save humanity from starvation, deprivation, and untold suffering. They had to fight continuous battles to get the right to vote, get equal pay for equal work and step outsides the confines of their houses and get recognition for their work as part of the social division of labour. Women have made superb performance in every walk of social life they have entered but gender disaggregated understanding of global community is still in infancy. While women have made impressive contributions to science and technology, they have been made victimized by callous and insensitive male-dominated use of these resources. During the drive for population control under one child per family initiative, a large number of cases of female infanticide were reported. While ultrasound was introduced to help in better diagnosis and treatment of diseases, it was used for female fetus killing in India and many other parts of the world. Women victims of forced sex who refuse to have unwanted children are denied the right to choose in the name of faith.

Twenty-First Century has to be the century of Mother Sciences. Science has to address the imbalances caused by biological and social differences and create a level playing field free of gender biases. The key tasks cut out for the scientific community include carrying out gender disaggregated research of contemporary global economy; converting the treasure of tacit knowledge of women – visible in form of female practices– into a formal body of Mother Sciences, and providing equal opportunities to women in the field of scientific development. We might stumble on the way but falling is part of learning to walk.