A lady birder in Egypt
Guest blog by Basma Sheta
I am Basma Sheta, from Damietta on the north coast of Egypt. I have a PhD in Zoology, specializing in bird ecology. The study of birds was one of the most beautiful and bravest decisions I made in my life. It is a new and difficult specialty here because of the lack of necessary basic equipment and tools. As a female, it was not easy at all for me to convince my professors and the society about being a bird ecologist as birders’ works mainly take place in difficult environments and harsh conditions. In our society, it is still unacceptable that ladies manage with fishermen, ride on boats, and climb mountains!
The challenge was to start establishing bird ecology on the Egyptian academia, which was not famous, and to start it by a woman, where men escape from it due to the difficulty, limited resources and lack of funding. The beginning was very difficult, despite the presence of sympathy, but I found admiration at the same time and got some helping hands, especially from people on the streets, while doing fieldwork. People were eager to know what the binocular is and how to look through it and what are the names of birds and the importance of their counting and monitoring.
I will not talk about details of journeys across Egypt and abroad because this is not my goal, but after getting my PhD, I became known for my research in the field of environment and classified as a bird expert among all Egyptian universities. This inspired students and broke the barrier of fear to enter the field of birds. Surprisingly, the vast majority of my students now are girls!
My next big dream is the establishment of a big lab of ornithology studies, making it a center of excellence to all students not only in Egypt but in Africa and all the world who are interested in bird ecology.
We need here more moral and funding support. We need more opportunities for us to attend international conferences and meet worldwide ornithologists to show what we did and to be a part of the big ornithological society.
We want to say we are here!