WISe Project · Women

The WISe Project: Jean Nyasha Rusere

In today’s Women in Science article I speak to Jean Nyasha Rusere. Jean is a 22 year old Ndebele woman from Zimbabwe. She is currently a 4th year student studying towards an Honors Degree in Pharmacy at Rhodes University in South Africa. Jean comes from a family of three girls and is the first scientist in her lineage.
 Phro: Please tell us how you developed an interest in Science and what (aside from school curriculum) nurtured your interest.
Jean: I was 10 years old when I developed the interest to pursue Science. At the time I was too young to pick something specific but as I progressed to high school, my dream area of study turned out to be Forensic Science and Criminology.  Unfortunately due to lack of funding and resources, I opted for my second choice which was Pharmacy. My favorite tv shows growing up were Crime Investigation (Medical Detectives) and anything that involved forensics; those are still my favourite shows. They played a major impact on me choosing my career path. I got so absorbed into the idea of studying the human body, drugs, health care systems, lab science etc. CI (Medical Detectives) gave me the enthusiasm and passion to follow my dream, which I am going to make come true one day when I can afford to.
Phro: What was it like the first time you entered the Science field as a female university student?
Jean: My first time being at Rhodes studying towards a profession in a Science field was very exciting. I was not scared. I had no doubts in myself that I had it in me to achieve what I was there for. That positive mentality really set the pace for me and I am proud to say I have outdone myself; more than I expected of myself.
Phro: Studies have shown that women drop out of STEM fields at an alarming rate. Have you witnessed this first hand? If so, what do you think causes it?
It’s my greatest pleasure to inform you that my class is 75% women and if I remember well, less than 10 girls have dropped out since my first year. In general the number of women dropouts is very low in the Pharmacy Faculty at Rhodes.
Phro: Would you say that your work is a job, something you do for a living that is separate from your life or is Science a significant part of who you are?
My work defines me and it is a very significant part of who I am . I am passionate about healthcare and the well- being of people. It’s also my source of income which is lovely because I  need the money, but I mainly do it because I really love it and that makes it less work for me.
Phro: Some women Scientists have stated publicly that they feel gender-based awards for Science give them special treatment and that they prefer to be judged on a level playing with all genders. Do you agree with this? Or do you think gender-based awards are useful?
Jean: On the issue of gender based awards, it is debatable. It could come across as reducing competition in order for women to be recognized as achievers. For instance if an award is meant for women only it seems like it had to be confined to one gender because if the award was open to men, no women would stand a chance to get it. I would prefer to be judged on a level playing  field with all genders.
Phro: How can society do a better job of sharing the stories of women in Science and encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in Science?
Jean: In order to share stories of women in Science and motivate women and girls to pursue Science Careers:
– career guidance should be given from a very young age  to promote Science careers
– the local newspapers should include subsections everyday that speak on Women in Science
– a magazine can be published monthly and sold to schools to share more about the beauty of Science and encourage girls from a young age that they too can do it, perhaps get a few Scientists to visit the schools and conduct small seminars about Science opportunities. A lot can be done.

A thousand thank you’s to Jean for taking the time to do this interview. I wish her nothing but the best in pursuing her dream further ❤

This series is a collection of interviews from women studying or working in Science. Please note it is open to all transwomen and non-binary persons too. If you would like to share your story please contact me here.

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