Leneka Rhoden is just 22-years-old, but speaks with such conviction, passion, and expertise that you’re tempted to drop whatever you’re doing, and join the fight for whatever cause she’s advocating for.
Currently, Rhoden is on a mission to transform the science and technology field. The trained marine biologist, who currently works as the Technical Information Officer at the Scientific Research Council, wants to use science as Jamaica’s driver of economic development.
“All that is on my mind is just transformation, transformation. I have a budding passion to just see a change in the way we view science in Jamaica. We need to see it as the main driver of economic development,” she told BUZZ.
“Scientific research is very important as it propels development, and the application of it is even more important. When you look at first world countries, they put a lot of money into the development of science, and scientific research. And if it is that Jamaica wants to be a developed nation then we have to take that note from developed countries. Let us be innovators, let the young people start innovating,” she contends.
Fortunately, her job allows her to lead the next generation of scientists who may make this goal possible.
“I am in charge of the science clubs within secondary high schools across the island, in terms of coordinating, and ensure that the students know what’s happening, provision of badges, and the development of the schedule, organising meetings, and assisting with the planning and execution of events by the council,” she said.
“I have a budding passion to just see a change in the way we view science in Jamaica.”— Rhoden
Jamaica’s hesitation to exploit scientific research to its benefit is not the only issue that has gotten the young scientist all riled up. She is also concerned that in her field, the proportion of women in key decision making positions is almost stagnant.
Women in science
“Worldwide it is quite alarming to see the fact that women are not at the forefront of scientific development especially in the field of engineering. It’s widespread across the fields in the sciences where it is that the Nobel prizes, from 1998 to 2017, men almost tripled the ratio of women who won,” she said.
“A lot of women had to develop the confidence to step out and advocate for a lot of things, to even make us be here right now.”— Rhoden
She asserts that the lack of women at the forefront of scientific research is not only due to lack of access but also because of how women were socialized.
“Women sometimes lack confidence and we tend to shy from saying that we did this, or we contributed to the success of this. The inferior complex contributes in a sense, traditionally men are always seen as the dominant players,” she said.
But Rhoden is earnestly doing her part to change this. She is a part of the organisation for Women in Science in the Developing World, and uses the opportunity to advocate for funding for female-led scientific research.
She also founded iAspire, an NGO that gives high school and university students the opportunity to intern with companies in their field of study, and La Clique Des Chics, an NGO that’s geared towards women empowerment.
Her latest innovation is the Mother Theresa Driving school which teaches women ( and men too) to drive.
For Rhoden, she is just continuing the journey that other advocates before he started.
“A lot of women had to develop the confidence to step out and advocate for a lot of things, to even make us be here right now,” she said.