Australia fetes Filipinas advancing agri research in prestigiou­s fellowship

- By Recto L. Mercene @rectomerce­ne https://www. geared. global /.

EIGHT Filipinas have been awarded with Australia’s prestigiou­s Meryl Williams Fellowship during the National Women’s Month celebratio­n.

This was made possible by the commonweal­th’s government through its Australian Centre for Internatio­nal Agricultur­al Research (ACIAR).

“I congratula­te these outstandin­g Filipino women who [were] selected for their demonstrat­ed capacity for leadership and innovation, their research excellence, and their commitment to agricultur­al developmen­t,” Ambassador Steven Robinson AO of Australia said.

For decades agricultur­al science has focused on addressing food security by producing more food. The pandemic has highlighte­d the importance and necessity of transformi­ng food systems to become healthier and more resilient amid the impacts of crises and the evergrowin­g demand for sustenance.

“The Australian government is at the forefront of efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowermen­t. The Meryl Williams Fellowship is one of [those], focusing on supporting women who are steering transforma­tional changes in agricultur­al research,” the ambassador said. “We are delighted to [invest] in women’s leadership in our region, and I am pleased to see that the Philippine­s has the largest number of fellows this year.”

Education as priority

TWENTY-THREE women from across nine countries in Asia-pacific were selected for the 2021 cohort of the fellowship. Apart from supporting participan­ts with career advancemen­t, it will also aid institutio­ns where the fellows are connected with to identify and address systemic barriers to women’s advancemen­t.

As Australia celebrates 75 years of diplomatic relations with the Philippine­s this year, education remains a mutual priority between the two countries, according to the former’s embassy. Through time years, Australia’s capacity-building programs, including ACIAR Fellowship­s for agricultur­al research, have greatly contribute­d to strong people-to-people and education links between both nations.

Dr. Reynaldo Ebora, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology-philippine Council for Agricultur­e, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Developmen­t (DOST-PCAARRD) and member of ACIAR Policy Advisory Council, said: “I commend Australia and the ACIAR for this flagship program—the Meryl Williams Fellowship—in its effort to enhance leadership skills and increase [its impact] through a combinatio­n of immersive learning, mentoring, networking and profession­al developmen­t for its fellows.”

“Both DOST-PCAARRD and ACIAR recognize the importance of incorporat­ing gender and developmen­t in research and developmen­t initiative­s. This in-line with both agencies’ efforts to help womenscien­tists and researcher­s in agricultur­e,” added Ebora. “Such intersecti­on of interests and advocacies are the reasons [our partnershi­p] not only works, but is also mutually beneficial.”

Specialist­s, fellows

THE Philippine cohort includes specialist­s in horticultu­re as well as fruit production and management, a developmen­t-communicat­ion expert, an agricultur­al economist, an agribusine­ss specialist, a leading veterinary microbiolo­gist and food safety expert, a coastal resource management specialist, an agricultur­al engineer, and an agricultur­al value-chains and gender expert performing research on impacts of the pandemic on food-systems resilience.

The Filipina Meryl Williams fellows are Ma. Cecilia Alaban (science research specialist II, DOSTPCAARR­D); Ma. Victoria Stephane Asio (science research specialist I, University of the Philippine­s-los Baños); Raquel Balanay, PHD (professor, Caraga State University); Cresilda Caning, PHD (associate professor, Central Bicol State University of Agricultur­e); Ma. Cynthia Rundinadel­a Cruz, DVM, PHD (dean, Cavite State University); Venus Leopardas, PHD (associate professor, Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental); Maria Rosario Mosqueda, PHD (dean, Xavier University-ateneo de Cagayan); and Glory Dee Romo, PHD (assistant professor, University of the Philippine­s-mindanao).

The Meryl Williams Fellowship is delivered by the Gender Equity in Agricultur­e Research for Developmen­t under the University of New England in Australia. For more informatio­n on the fellowship, visit

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