An inspirational advocate for gender equality in Africa
Category : Updates
AwF’s Woman of the Month award for April goes to Professor Stella Williams now retired from the Department of Agricultural Economics, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) formerly known as the University of Ife in Nigeria. Stella is a truly outstanding scholar, activist and policy advisor on gender and Fisheries Economics in Nigeria. Women make highly significant but undervalued contributions to the fisheries and aquaculture sector nationally. However, their contributions are only slowly being recognized and still lags behind in rural and peri-urban communities all over Nigeria.
Stella Williams has been an advocate of gender and social equity perspectives in numerous development projects across Nigeria and the African continent. Early in her career, she concentrated her research efforts on value addition along supply chains in the fishing industry but later broadened her research scope to include the study of women in fisheries and aquaculture. In the last thirty-five years, her primary research and developmental work focused on investigating viable frameworks for user participation in fisheries and aquaculture management, fisheries governance through integration of stakeholders’ knowledge and enhancement of livelihoods and economic development of rural artisanal fisher-folks, in particular the women and children that are often left out in fisheries policy in Nigeria.
Stella Williams is a passionate advocate for the education of girls and educational empowerment for women in agriculture. She is renowned for mentoring many students and has been instrumental in sourcing funding for them to attend conferences. Stella designed, advocated for and influenced the inclusion of a new course into the curriculum titled ‘Introduction to Fisheries and Aquaculture’ as a compulsory course in the Faculty of Agriculture at OAU. As a result of the newly introduced course, a number of her undergraduate students who took the course have set up and are successfully running commercial fish farms in Nigeria after graduation. She is proud that some of her students have managed to secure jobs in government and prestigious institutions such as the World Bank enabling them to highlight issues surrounding primary industries.
Stella Williams has served on various International, Regional and National Boards where she has assisted in addressing and mainstreaming gender issues. For example, she served on the Executive Committee of IIFET from 1988 to 1992 and discovered that there were very few Africans on the membership roster of IIFET. She successfully worked with the Board to increase the participation of African members in successive conferences by promoting IIFET not only in Nigeria but also throughout the African Continent. Her presentation in Tromso, Norway was a ground-breaking moment and now, making special presentations on gender perspectives in fisheries and aquaculture is an accepted research area of interest as demonstrated at IIFET’s first sub-Saharan African meeting in Tanzania.
While serving on the WorldFish Center Board of Trustees, her primary contribution to the Board was providing the gender perspective needed to enhance the scientific study of fisheries and aquaculture. Similar to her work at IIFET, she helped highlight the research that showed that aside from being processors and marketers of fish; women were also artisanal fisher-folks. She helped generate the NEPAD (New Partners in African Development) continent-wide policy development that firmly put fish on the agenda for the first time.
Prof. Williams is a Fellow of Fisheries Society of Nigeria, African Association of Agricultural Economics, a Fulbright Fellow, 2003-2004 and Vice President, Mundus maris asbl (www.mundusmaris.org). She is the Founder of the Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research for Development – NiWARD (www,niward.org), an intiative for Nigerian African Women in Agricultural Research and Development beneficiares, AWARD (www.awardfellowships.org) to share their knowledge and skills for the agricultural transformation agenda nationally with rural communities.