Dr. Claire d’Audie Hirwa is an Animal Breeding Researcher and the Head of the Livestock Programme in the Rwanda Agricultural Board. The 34-year-old Hirwa speaks to Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi about how she managed to excel in the male-dominated field of agricultural research.
“I studied animal breeding and genetics at the South China Agricultural University where I obtained a masters degree. I then went ahead to get a doctorate and graduated in 2011. I really wish to encourage girls to take on science subjects and break the misconceptions that sciences are only for boys,” the soft-spoken Dr. Hirwa says.
She notes that science subjects are important in the development of a country.
“Girls should see the positive side of science subjects and avoid considering them hard subjects. Participating in science research innovation and technologies is interesting,”, Dr. Hirwa advises.
She said: “I would further encourage girls to always aim high. It’s important to have an objective in life. Work hard to achieve it. If you don’t have a goal in life you can easily lose focus. Girls should not only think of stopping at a bachelors degree level. Personally, I always thought I would just get a masters degree and that’s it. But I’m happy that I was able to get a doctorate although it’s not something to brag about. But I want to encourage Rwandan girls that if I was able to get this far in the sciences they also can”, she says earnestly.
Born in Gatsibo District, Eastern Province, Dr. Hirwa attended Nyarubuye Primary School before going to Kiziguro Secondary School for O-Level. She then attended Rushashi Secondary School for her A-Level.
“During primary and secondary school the number of girls in my class, when compared to the number of boys, was close to 50 percent. But at university we were five girls among fifteen boys,” she reveals.
She said: “Although we were a few girls in class, I never felt inferior because I was good in specific subjects and the boys would approach me to help them in areas they didn’t understand.”
She has been involved in different research projects such as identifying the genes that control fat development in chicken.
“The research I’m currently working on, along with my colleagues, is to establish a way to eradicate poverty and hunger. We aim to do this by increasing milk production through the use of animal genetics. But our main challenge while carrying out this research is limited facilities and funds,” she says.
When asked what she aspired to become as a child she said: “As a child, I always wanted to become a medical doctor. It was my childhood dream. When I passed exams in high school, I was placed in the veterinary sciences faculty in ISAE. Although it was not my dream, but I grew to love it as a career,” she says without regret.
ISAE (Higher Institute of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry) is the premier agriculture college in Rwanda.
Dr. Hirwa reveals that the time not spent at work is spent with her family at home. She married her husband, Gerald Rushingabigwi, in 2008 and they are blessed with two children, a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son.
“I’m lucky my husband is always supportive in whatever I do and being an academic person, he knows the importance of a woman in the decision making process. He is a lecturer at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology,” Dr. Hirwa reveals.
Regarding how she spends her leisure time she says, “if I’m not with my family having quality time, I go jogging to keep in shape. I also go to church frequently and visit friends.”