Awa Bousso Dramé, afrofeminist and researcher in geospatial sciences

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Awa Bousso Dramé is a committed researcher: alongside the work she conducts in the field of geospatial sciences and the use of artificial intelligence for coastal surveillance in West Africa, the Senegalese 25 years old created at the beginning of the year the Coastal & GeoSciences institute in which the place of women is a primary concern.

“We strive to support women in their research journey in disciplines dominated by men. For example, we have a program in geochemistry on a regional scale,” explains the young scientist who is one of the twenty winners of the Young Talents of Sub-Saharan Africa prize for women and science, awarded in November by UNESCO and the L’Oréal Foundation. Only 0.04% of women researchers validate a doctorate in Senegal, according to data from the World Economic Forum.

The researcher has long been passionate about environmental sciences. “Thanks to my Cape Verdean grandmother, I understood very early that the oceans are living organisms connected to humans”, recalls the woman from Dakar who spent her childhood observing the Atlantic. Today, she is working on a thesis supervised by University College London (UCL) and the Center for Ecological Monitoring (CSE) in Dakar, a structure attached to the Senegalese Ministry of the Environment.

“It’s not beyond the reach of women”

At the heart of his research: the impacts of climate change, infrastructures such as ports or hydrocarbon exploitation projects on the circulation of sediments in the estuary of the Senegal River, which crosses the border with Mauritania. Sensitive geopolitical terrain: this is where the Senegalese-Mauritanian Grande Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) gas project is located, which is scheduled to come into operation at the end of 2023. The results of his research could complement our coastal erosion monitoring system”believes Moussa Sall, coordinator within the West African coast observation mission at the CSE and one of its research supervisors.

Meanwhile, she has also worked on the impact of the construction of an urban highway on the northern coast of Dakar. His research from geospatial or field data collection has recorded an erosion of more than 4 m per year between 2010 and 2019.

Read also: Environmental sciences, a land of conquests for African women researchers

It is also through this concrete research that she wishes to play a role model and debunk the clichés about the supposed inability of women to practice in certain sciences. “Geomorphology, which is the study of relief, requires, for example, going out into the field and doing physical sampling work, which may explain why the discipline is occupied by men. I often receive teasing when I myself am in the process of recovering sediments by doing core drilling. But women can see that it’s not beyond their reach.”testifies Awa Bousso Dramé.

She thus assumes her Afro-feminist commitment: “Research and decision-making bodies lack women and more particularly black and African women”she laments, pointing “cultural and gender identities undermined during decolonization” and whose perceptions “still have an impact in school, university and professional circles”.

Sensitive geopolitical terrain

She herself fought to continue her studies in geography at the Sorbonne University in Paris, once her baccalaureate in her pocket, in 2014. Awa Bousso Dramé then turned to geospatial sciences, which she studied notably at Columbia University in New York. “I was drawn to artificial intelligence and geospatial sciences and their potential applications in West Africa”explains the researcher who focuses her work on the study of regional coastal areas.

“Coastlines crystallize environmental and economic development issues, particularly with cross-border estuaries that are home to natural resources such as gas or oil”she says, wishing to shed light on public policy decisions through this work.

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In West Africa, 56 million people live along the coasts where more than half of the GDP is concentrated. “With climate change, the West African coast is particularly exposed to erosion and flooding, not to mention the impact on biodiversity”, worries Awa Dramé Bousso, hoping that her work will allow “provide sustainable solutions” to phenomena that will have an impact on communities for a long time.

Dossier produced in partnership with the L’Oréal Foundation.

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Awa Bousso Dramé, afrofeminist and researcher in geospatial sciences

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