“A woman is still expected to do a lot more work in the home than the male counterpart and a career in technology may demand longer hours and this can be an obstacle,” says Evah Oduor, a Regional Director of the IEC AFRC, based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
One of Africa’s leading experts on Standards, conformity assessment and metrology, Evah has been the IEC Coordinator for Africa since 2008 and has greatly supported the IEC Affiliate Country Programme in the region. As well as representing IEC in various forums in Africa, she is very active in the African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission (AFSEC) where she is a Second Vice-President and Chair of the AFSEC Conformity Assessment Committee.
We spoke to Evah on International Women’s Day to find out about her work at the IEC, why she chose to pursue her studies in science and how she has been able to overcome the challenges women face when working in technology.
IEC: Could you describe your job in one sentence.
Evah Odour: My job is to represent IEC in Africa and provide support to IEC Members and Affiliates in Africa participating in IEC work and in the use of IEC International Standards and Conformity Assessment Systems as the key to safe and efficient access to electricity and to regional and international trade integration.
IEC: How would your colleagues describe you?
Evah Odour: Out going, open minded and pleasant.
IEC: What do you enjoy most about living and working in Nairobi?
Evah Odour: Nairobi is home, my family is in Nairobi. It is easily accessible from other parts of Africa and it is a pleasant place to be.
IEC: You have a Master’s Degree in biochemistry. What attracted you to science and technology as a young woman?
Evah Odour: May be I can say natural selection. I was good in science subjects and I enjoyed them.
IEC: How typical was your career choice for a young African woman and how much support did you get from family and friends?
Evah Odour: My career was not very typical and some cases I found myself as the only woman in the class or a working group. My family and friends were very supportive and encouraging
IEC: What are the main obstacles in Africa for a woman who wants to pursue a career in technology?
Evah Odour: A woman is still expected to do a lot more work in the home than the male counterpart and a career in technology may demand longer hours and this can be an obstacle.
IEC: What are the key challenges for people living somewhere like Nairobi?
Evah Odour: The main challenge for people living in Nairobi is the time it takes to get for place to place because of high traffic jam. The cost of living is quite high.
IEC: What about businesses – what challenges are they having to overcome?
Evah Odour: For the business of course moving from place to place is a challenge. When there is a problem with electricity which happens quite often especially during the rainy season then of course business comes to a stand still.
IEC: In what ways are International Standards having a positive impact in Africa?
Evah Odour: A lot of countries in Africa are importing (especially electrical products) and not so many are manufacturing. The use of international standards is making it possible to demand safe goods and are thus protecting the consumer and the markets.
For the Power Utilities they benefit when they refer to International Standards in their tenders because this provides a reference point for ensuring that you can get a good product at a good price
IEC: How aware are people of Standards, why they exist and the importance of testing and certification as a means for dealing with counterfeit products?
Evah Odour: There is a lot of awareness of the importance of Standards as all products (particularly on aspects of safety) must be inspected and issued with a standardization mark and this of course involves testing and certification. A lot of awareness campaigns have been conducted to all stakeholders (manufacturers, consumers and regulators.)