Only three out of 50 Bulgarian women competing have won their scholarship under the For Women in Science program this year with scientific research in the area of natural science. The national scholarship program has been implemented in Bulgaria since 2010 within the frames of the international partnership between L’Oreal and UNESCO. It is part of a global program across more than 50 countries, aiming at the support of young women who see their future in science.
Each of the three young Bulgarians, aged below 30 has her chance and potential for her great breakthrough in some field of science. It is biochemistry for Dr. Kirilka Mladenova – the research of a specific retina enzyme; physics is the scientific field of Dr. Natalia Bukhova – she develops material for safer and longer data preservation of digital data; Dr. Isabela Genova’s project is related to a system for obtaining alternative fuels from biomass. The subject is essential, due to the progressively growing need of energy resources globally and also to the increasing environmental pollution. “Remain patient and keep following your dreams – that is my piece of advice to all those young girls who opt for science,” Isabela Genova says and adds:
“The feeling of this recognition is one of a kind. This is high appraisal for me and my work which motivates me to go on. I hope that other young people will follow this example, as unfortunately many give up on the idea of a scientific career. Providing the necessary funding for scientific activities is a key point in the motivation of young researchers. So I hope this will change soon…”
UNESCO data shows that today only 28% of researchers worldwide are women and only 3% of the Nobel awards have been taken by women. That is why the For Women in Science program aims at increasing the number of women scientists. Over 2,700 ladies in 115 countries have already received scholarships. 15 Bulgarians have been approved so far. According to the jury’s chair Associate Prof. Eliza Stefanova few women dared to apply for the scholarship in the first years due to lack of self-confidence, but today they are many more – thanks to the example of their predecessors. Mrs. Stefanova expressed her gratitude to both the women and men within the jury.
Former Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova failed to attend the ceremony, as she was handing over her position that day, but she sent her message to Bulgarian women in science. “You are the young scientific hope of Bulgaria and women in science have the power to change the world,” she said and added:
“Bulgarian men and women have proved themselves as some of the brightest scientific minds over the years. The seven years since the contest has been running in Bulgaria have proved not only the need of a competition in science of that kind, but also the huge potential of this country that has to be encouraged and stimulated by us. Today women from all over the world continue to face stereotypes, social and cultural barriers that limit their access to education and the funding of research activities. This creates obstacles for the development of a scientific career, allowing the revealing of one’s full capacity and talent. This is the only global program created with the purpose of providing support and encouragement of women to get involved in science. This is also part of the gender equality battle. Two of the program’s scholarship laureates have even won the Nobel Prize so far…”
English version: Zhivko Stanchev