Australia fetes Filipinas advancing agri research in prestigious fellowship
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.”
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