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Nigerian Professor of Physics, Fransisca Okeke, Clinches the 2013 L’Oreal – UNESCO Women In Science Award for Africa & Arab States

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Francisca Okeke

Francisca Okeke, a Professor of Physics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka has recently received the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award for her contribution to the understanding of “daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere which may further our understanding of climate change.”

Professor Okeke was the Dean in the faculty of Physical Sciences at UNN from 2008 – 2010. She is a huge inspiration to women in the sciences and we’re really inspired by the work she is doing. In an interview with UNESCO, she was asked “What remains as the biggest challenge faced by women and young girls in science in Nigeria and what can be done to encourage young girls to consider further study in Science?
She replied: “It’s encouragement. Where and when it is possible, we need to let the guardians and parents know the importance of women participating in science.

I will talk specifically about the village because, though there are some enlightened people there, the situation is worse. Sometimes you have girls who are very brilliant but are forced into early marriage. We can let parents be aware of advantages of their daughters becoming scientists and that they can gain more from the girls when they are scientists than when they get married as early as 16, 17 or 18. Like it happened a few years a go, we can call social gatherings with a talk by someone on ‘women in science’. We can give them examples, maybe by playing movies of successful women in science. This can work wonders.

We need to get guidance counsellors for these young women because some of them should have opted for these courses but since they don’t have the background and counselling, they say “this is a male subject so I can’t do it”.

Another angle to this is to lead as a model, by example. I have so many postgraduate female students and many of them have gotten PhDs through my guidance, counselling and encouragement. But if I don’t let them come near me, they will be scared. And once they are scared of you, they are scared of the subject. We need to tell them that this subject is not as difficult as they think. If it’s possible, get women to teach women. ‘Seeing is believing’. They will eventually see that it is practical and that this is a subject that can be dabbled into and not fearing it because ‘people say…’

Finally, as women scientist, we have to establish good relationships with younger women scientists and even among ourselves, so we can all get along with each other. Leading women scientists must develop a leadership style that will be highly prized. This L’Oreal-UNESCO Award given to me is a big challenge; it has strengthened me to continue to encourage girls and women to participate in the development of science and technology by offering these core sciences courses in schools and universities. This invariably furthers the development of a Nation.

Among the L’Oreal – UNESCO fellows for 2013 are Marie Florence Ngo Ngwe from Cameroon (Plant Biotchnology); Anita Takura from Ghana (Agricultural and Environmental Science); Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi from Nigeria (Environment and Toxicology) and Sahwa Adil Nourein from Sudan (Clinical immunology & Medical Doctor)

37 Comments

  1. Gbokoro

    April 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

    I do come to bellanaija from time to time to read the news and articles but I have never commented. One of the things I enjoy reading atimes are the comments by the readers.
    Surprisingly when I read about this wonderful Nigerian scientist winning an international award, I scrolled down to read the comments and behold I found none.That shows what we value in our country.
    In as much as entertainment is good and all the gossips about celebrities are ‘fun’ to read, but this is the real thing. We need more of scientists and engineers in Nigeria to develop and achieve our dream of being powers to reckon with in the world.
    Prof Okeke has done great. She has made us proud and I wish that we that many of us will continue to make Nigeria and Nigerians proud.
    By the way, I am neither a scientist nor an Engineer.

    • Deeolar

      April 20, 2013 at 9:42 am

      My sentiments exactly!

    • king Joe Idaka

      June 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      Yeap. U’ve commented rightly with an unreserved sincerity. I love you and wish you make us proud too, in your own calling.

  2. NNENNE

    April 20, 2013 at 3:51 am

    GREAT.

  3. Tesonma

    April 20, 2013 at 4:22 am

    outstanding. I claim this brains for my family IJN. Amen.

  4. 1naijalulu

    April 20, 2013 at 4:42 am

    this is one of my heroes, its good to see great people of good character and commendable work come out of nigeria and someone we in this generation can admire and aspire to be like. Thank you prof, may more of us follow your foot steps… “Naija rising” “corrupt individuals dying literally or metaphorically 2013” “Inspired cleaning up our generation”

  5. Yolanda

    April 20, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Omg! That’s my dean! Very wonderful woman.
    Congrats ma

  6. bee

    April 20, 2013 at 7:10 am

    very impressive

  7. Temizzy

    April 20, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Great Job ma, younger women coming up are proud to have role models like you. Keep up the good work. I think we should start thinking of doing serious research in the sciences. Nigerian women are really smart. Kuddos!!

  8. Tongryang Pantu

    April 20, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Great! Always refreshing seeing women doing outstanding work… Congrats ma and keep the good work.

  9. whocares

    April 20, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Nigerian women are ON fire!

  10. ozed

    April 20, 2013 at 11:41 am

    This is a wonderful news. She is an inspiration. Prof F.N. Okeke taught me physics in my first year at UNN. She has also been contributing to the understanding of Physics for decades now through a Textbook popular among secondary school students. Can’t remember the title now. But we all know the textbook as P.N. Okeke and F.N Okeke. Her husband is also a professor of physics. Congrats Prof !

    • Abiola

      April 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Seriously?
      That book made me fall in love with physics.
      Awesome!!!!

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      April 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Wow, she wrote that book? Amazing, I definitely read it as part of my very brief excursion into the sciences in my SS1 year.

      She appears to be an accomplished Nigerian female academic & we need more of those, please! However, in response to her statement about girls getting married early, I don’t necessarily believe that is a bad thing in itself. What ruins the futures of those girls is getting married to men who don’t nurture the future prospects of their wives. I’m sure I’ve read here on BN about a couple who both supported each other through very specialized PH.Ds at Unilag and even the Prof herself looks to be married to an fellow academic in her field.

      So educating the society as a whole is the way to go, not just parents and guardians. My mum took the decision to study her Ph.D in her husband’s home and the resistance which she encountered from my dad’s family was very discouraging. If my father had let them have any say, she may not have completed it but she did and 30 years later, those same family members are the ones proudly famzing and calling her “Prof”. So everyone needs to buy into the vision when it comes to giving women the best education that’s available.

  11. Ify

    April 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Wow! This is very encouraging! More grease to your elbows

  12. Anonymous

    April 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Wow! Really?! We used PN Okeke in school, though I didn’t like physics 🙂

  13. Esther

    April 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Congratulations, am proud to be a woman

  14. Aunty Gimme Cake

    April 20, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    I used PN Okeke in high school! Good to know we are still being recognized for other things asides corruption! God bless Nigeria!

  15. Latifah

    April 21, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Congrats Ma…Happy to be a woman..This is what I term being successful

  16. Mabel

    April 21, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Phenomenal woman!

  17. Imasu

    April 21, 2013 at 3:47 am

    Wow… She taught me o. When I grow up, I’d be better than you. Congratulations Prof Mrs. Okeke

  18. peye

    April 21, 2013 at 4:11 am

    why isn’t this all over the news. we need to celebrate the good we have so our children can see it. they will become what they hear and see and if all they hear about are corrupt officials even if you’re criticizing them that will be their reality cos that’s the only thing they’ve ever heard or seen. we must make effort to project good.

  19. me

    April 21, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Wow, She i s FN Okeke? Used PN okeke in high school. Proud of u, madam.

  20. Turayo Tijani

    April 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    This is really great news. I feel inspired already even if I don’t end up in a science field.

  21. salsera

    April 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    so na her book i read! Got an A1 in physics. congrats ma – Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

  22. GREAT STUFF

    April 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    I know that text book I heard about it in school, congrats to her

  23. chi-ez

    April 22, 2013 at 2:52 am

    proud of her one for the women of math and science. see its not only art and medicine women are good at.

  24. Yinka

    April 22, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    inspirational! Proud to be a Nigerian Woman.

  25. Akat

    April 23, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Awwwh congratulations aunty Franca. I can’t say I’m surprised cos your intelligence has always been without doubt. Pius N Okeke of the popular P N Okeke physics text book is her husband.

  26. Damie

    April 23, 2013 at 8:13 am

    This is amazing. So proud of her

  27. olubukkie laiyi

    April 23, 2013 at 8:15 am

    congrats so good nigerian women are all rounders great achiever in all areas.

  28. ALVIN JOHNSON

    August 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

    am to be a nigerian

  29. ALVIN JOHNSON

    August 7, 2013 at 10:36 am

    am proud to be a nigerian

  30. Faith

    February 13, 2014 at 7:36 am

    I am a South African young woman and I must say I am impressed with what Mrs Okeke has achieved. I haven’t read her book(s) but will do just soon. Thank you for making woman have that freedom and belief that we can also do it, science, math, astronomy or anything we want. (Take off my hat and salute)

  31. john ovbude

    June 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    this is interesting….

  32. Mustapha

    September 10, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Wow that’s very good

  33. Adewale

    November 12, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Thank you to the Okekes for their fantastic Physics textbooks back in secondary school. Physics would have sounded like Greek language without your PN Okeke textbook

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