Family lays the foundation of a child being the truest and highest version of themselves throughout their lives. If both the boy child and girl child are not stereotyped and restricted because of their gender in our homes, they will both achieve the impossible and live fulfilled lives. This is seen in the life of our blog personality of the week: Prof. Deborah Enilo Ajakaiye; the first female physics professor in Africa. She is the first to be featured in our African Women in STEM series. She attributes her achievements to her family that believed in gender equality which resulted in her belief that she could pursue anything regardless of her gender. Her parents treated her and her siblings equally including in the division of house chores. A wise person once said, “Charity begins at home.” Attaining gender equality will be realized in our society if it begins in our homes. What if we treated both boys and girls the same, how many Deborah Enilo’s would we have today?
Deborah Enilo Ajakaiye was born in 1940 in Nigeria. She went against the grain by venturing in the world of science which was and is still largely patriarchal. Deborah demonstrated her brilliance in Mathematics at a very tender age. Her academic achievements and the short time she took to achieve them really caught my attention. In 1962, she obtained her undergraduate in Physics from the University of Ibadan. Later, she received a Masters degree at the University of Birmingham in England. Originally, she was interested in Mathematics but later pursued Geophysics because she wanted to contribute to the development and growth of her country. As a result, she pursued a PHD in Geophysics which she completed in 1970 from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria where she was retained as a lecturer in the university and served as the Dean of Natural Sciences.
Deborah played an imperative role in the mining industry in Nigeria. Through her experience in Geovisualization she proffered ways underground water and mineral deposits could be located in Nigeria. This led to her being awarded by the Nigeria Mining and Geoscience Society making her the first woman to receive that award. Her discovery of hydrocarbons in Nigeria led to further socioeconomic development of Nigeria. In addition to that, she created a map of the topography of Nigeria together with her students. Many male scientists who interacted with Prof. AJakaiye changed their paradigm on women venturing in science related careers.
Prof. Ajakaiye was the first African to be a fellow of the Geological Society of London. Prof. Ajakaiye coauthored a book titled, Course Manual & Atlas of Structural Styles on Reflection Profiles from Niger Delta with A. W. Belly which had gained international recognition and is used as a reference material on seismic research and studies on the Niger Delta in Nigeria that is rich in oil and other deltas globally. From 2001 – 2004, she served as a member of the Advisory Council of AAGP and was later elected AAGP Africa’s Regional President (2005 – 2007).
Based on her wealth of experience, strong academic background and contribution to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, in September 29th 2010, Deborah Enilo was among the 50 women who were honored by the First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan at the 50th Independence Award for Women of Distinction. Prof. Ajakaiye, retired from academic duties and is currently involved in charity activities. She is part of the Christian Care for Widows, Widowers, the Aged and Orphans Organization. She is also the lead in Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s pursuit to increase crude oil from the national reserves which is to be achieved through geographical exploration of inland sedimentary basins.
References and Further Reading
- Answers Africa, Deborah Ajakaiye: Meet The First Female Physics Professor in Africa, https://answersafrica.com/deborah-ajakaiye-physics-professor.html
- Naija Standard Newspaper, Inspirational: Nigerian Born Plateau State Native Deborah Enilo Ajakaiye (14th November 2017), https://nigeriastandardnewspaper.com/ng/inspirational-nigerian-born-plateau-state-native-deborah-ajakaiye-still-first-female-physics-professor-in-africa-becomes-the-first-black-african-named-fellow-of-the-geological-society-of-london-studi/
- DAWN Commission, Prof. Deborah Enilo Ajakaiye; the Female Professor of Physics. http://dawncommission.org/akinkanjuDetail.php?id=53
By Amy Ochiel