Kenyan Woman Wins Prestigious UN Award

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    Prof Catherine Ngila addresses a gathering at an event at Riara University, Nairobi.
  • A lecturer at Riara University won a prestigious United Nations award in recognition of her ingenious innovation and contribution to the education sector. 

    Prof Catherine Ngila and four other women were bestowed the 2021 L’Oréal-UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Laureates awards on Thursday, February 11. 

    The five researchers were honoured during the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with the awards being part of the 23rd international prize for women in science. 

    The award is presented to researchers in mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry and informatics globally. Ngila won the Laureate for Africa and the Arab States.  

    Riara University lecturer, Prof Catherine Ngila who won the 2021 L’Oréal-UNESCO Laureate for Africa and the Arab States in February 2021

    She was recognised for introducing, developing and applying nanotechnology-based analytical methods to monitor water pollutants. UNESCO said that her innovative work is of vital importance for the development of water resource management in an environmentally sustainable way.

    "Water research is close to my heart in that water is life! Nanotechnology can play a vital role in water purification techniques. My dream is to produce a commercially viable water nano-filter that removes contaminants in one filtration cycle, enabling rural African families to install affordable water filters in their homes," Ngila said. 

    The lecturer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s of Science in Chemistry from Kenyatta University and a PhD in Analytical Environmental Chemistry from the University of South Wales, Australia.

    She is also the acting Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic and Student Affairs (DVC-AA) at Riara University and a visiting Professor of Applied Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Ngila's peers who were also awarded included Prof Kyojo Nozaki, a professor of Chemistry in Tokyo Japan, Laureate for Asia and the Pacific. Professor Shafi Goldwasser, a professor in electrical and computer science in MIT USA, Laureate for North America. 

    The Laureate for Europe was won by Prof Francoise Combes, chair of Galaxies and Cosmology in France and Prof Alicia Dickenstein, a mathematics professor at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina won the Laureate for Latin America and the Caribbean. 

    "We must know how to retain women in scientific or technological discipline and ensure that their careers are not strewn with obstacles that their achievements are recognized and supported by the international scientific community," Unesco Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Shamila Nair Bedouelle said. 

    “The 'invisibilization' of women in science is still too significant. While the gender imbalance remains in science, we will never be able to meet the challenges of an inclusive society or to tackle the scientific issues the world is facing," Head of L’Oréal Foundation Alexandra Part added. 

    An aerial view of Riara University, Nairobi.