Make resistance your lifestyle.
This past weekend, hundreds, if not thousands of 500 Women Scientists Marched across the globe. Let us know where you marched this weekend. As an organization, we have a collective reason for why we marched, but each of us has our own story. We would love to hear your stories and see your photos, in the comments below!
Anjali Kumar, a member of 500SW, was one of the fantastic organizers of the 500WS marching in DC. At the rally, Anjali told her story and encouraged us to shares ours with each other throughout the day. We were inspired and encouraged by Anjali and today we share her story:
This part of my story begins as a field researcher just finishing up a post-doc where I spent entire nights out under the stars in the Amazon rainforest in Peru catching bats - many times by myself - but often with a few, female Peruvian Masters students out there to learn as much as they could about my work. I returned back to the USA with some thoughts: there are so many students, especially women, that need mentoring. And particularly in countries where women were not traditionally seen as researchers or professional biologists. I also thought all this work I have been doing is read by just a few people in academic journals, and almost none of those people reading them are in positions to actually make policy from all the data we collect. And a lot of the work that was most valuable to me came from the relationships I established with young researchers. So I decided to move to DC and begin to work in the US government infusing science and data into policymaking and working to build local talented scientists in the USA and abroad.
I had the fortune to find a great roommate, also working in their field of using science for policymaking in the US government. We spent the last year and a half watching this election tick along, regularly talking about this candidate and what his party and ideas would mean for science and education in the USA and the world. There was nothing positive that we find to hold onto.
On Nov. 8 we excitedly put on our pantsuits and walked outside to get our neighborhood crossing guard to take our picture. As we biked, smiling from ear to ear, off to work we made a plan to meet up after work and get ready to celebrate. The excitement about the first female president that we thought was going to be elected was tangible all over this city. I was elated to watch the results come in that night.
As we watched the election results roll in after work, our moods probably mirrored a lot of your own. We went from excited, to worried, to crying. We sunk into our couch and tried to distract ourselves from the inevitable. As we sat there with our blankets wrapped around us, staring blankly at the screen playing ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’, and watching the election results come in state by state on our phones, I was faced with a choice. Do I stay sitting here, pretending like this new administration isn’t taking away everything that I and so many others have worked so hard for, valued, and fought for my entire adult life, OR do I stand up and find a way to right this wrong?
In the day following the election, as I walked in the streets of DC, and then to Boston, where I flew the day after the election on Nov. 9 to work as a representative for the US government, I watched as people stopped on the street, openly weeping about what seemed to be our collective new reality.
At the end of my work day on November 9th I headed back to my AirBnB in Boston. I was staying in an apartment with a woman engineer from Colombia who was at MIT doing a post-doc and rented out her extra bedroom to travelers. We talked about HER new reality as a foreigner studying in the USA, HER fears about this new president, and her hopes for when she came to the USA, which now seemed to be disappearing in front of her eyes. And I thought. Enough is enough. This cannot be all of our futures. A culture of fear, despair, hatred and non-truths? Where women and science are both pushed down and forced to disappear? No way.
I went into my bedroom, laid on the bed and began to read through all the texts sent that day by my core group of powerful, female, scientist friends who I rely on for support in all occasions, but especially on that day. And the texts were full of questions. How can we live with the next four years of misogyny? The constant denigration of women? The mistrust of science? The fear of data? The downplaying of the importance of education? And not using evidence for policy and decision making? As I scrolled through the texts, got more and more angry and sad and then, defiant. The answer to all those questions was - we cannot live with this and we will not.
I arrived back to DC a few days later and my roommate told me about this group she was starting with a few of her friends to fight against the new president and his administration to promote women in science called 500 Women Scientists. And I thought, YES. This is how we can stop this runaway train. We find our people. We organize. And we resist.
And what they thought would be 500 people is now over 13,000 people from over 100 countries. So THANK YOU very much for being here and standing together today and every day. We will not let this president or his administration stop science or women or anything related to women in science. Today, we would like you all to share YOUR stories with each other. By knowing each other and our stories we will only become more powerful. Together we can fight for women and science and everything being a woman in science means. This is our collective NO to this administration!
Anjali Kumar is a American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the Global Development Lab at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). As a AAAS Fellow, Anjali is working to help build scientific research capacity across the world and aid scientists in translating technical research into accessible information for both policy making and for the communication of research for development to non-scientists. Prior to becoming a AAAS Fellow, Anjali worked as a tropical ecologist, with interests lying at the interface of conservation biology and behavioral ecology, in pantropical ecosystems from Singapore and Malaysia to South and Central America. Anjali completed a postdoctoral appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she studied bioaccumulation of toxic methylmercury in bats of the Peruvian Amazon in areas where mercury is used for gold extraction by artisanal mining. Anjali's professional interests include education and mentoring around the scientific method process, international collaboration, science diplomacy, international aid and development, biodiversity conservation, and seeking novel solutions for wildlife and habitat conservation. Anjali is also the daughter of two immigrant parents from Ireland and India, a daughter, sister, aunt, partner, member of the LGBTQ community and a part time dog owner.