As a food and nutrition scientist in CIFOR-ICRAF, Mulia Nurhasan leads the execution of the food and nutrition component of environmental projects, mostly in Indonesia. Her team comprises four nutritionists, geospatial analysts, and a livelihood specialist. She also leads collaboration between CIFOR-ICRAF and partner institutions, supporting the implementation of research projects in the field. Mulia has a bachelor degree in post-harvest fishery, a master’s degree in international fisheries management, and has a PhD from the University of Copenhagen, Department of Human Nutrition. She is actively involved in advocating for a sustainable food systems agenda in Indonesia.
Q: What does your work look like on a daily basis?
A: My work involves leading the design of projects, building research protocol, liaising with partners institutions, managing research and researchers in the field, managing data analysis, leading the interpretation of findings, leading the process of research publication and writing proposals for research funding.
Q: Why did you become a scientist? What motivates you in your work?
A: I began my career working in development. I knew it was the kind of work I wanted to do from the beginning – I love going to the field, meeting communities, getting to know people with various backgrounds, and contributing to development processes. I am also curious about things, question the mainstream, and love to investigate, write, and share what I find. So being a researcher in development fits my character. But I didn’t know that one could be a researcher in development: I thought researchers belonged to academia, and development was another world. Towards the end of my PhD, things unfolded for me. I met my current mentor, Amy Ickowitz – a senior scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF – with whom I decided to work continuously for sustainable food systems through science and development.
Q: Why is it important to have women leading in science? Do you have a specific example or story you can share?
A: I grew up in an environment that warns women to behave and conform to the general norms. For most of my life, when I speak up against or for something, I am often made to feel bad for doing so. Consequently, like many Asian women who grew up like me, we choose a leadership style that is low key and persuasive. This has been a good approach, but it also has consequences. Sometimes people don’t see women as leaders, doubt our capacity to lead and manage, and hesitate to give us big responsibilities. In many cultures, leading is dominating, leaders must show masculine characteristics.
I feel very fortunate that throughout my career, especially at CIFOR-ICRAF, I have met with great women in science who have many different styles coming from various backgrounds, and they are great scientists, great leaders too! They make me realize that we women do not have to hide our true colours, character and femininity. We can still be great leaders by being who we are and who we are meant to be.
Women of different characters who have taken on leadership roles are playing a vital role in educating our society to accept and provide equal opportunities for women to lead. Their courage to stay true to their characters and bring new types of leadership styles not only inspires more women to embrace their authentic selves but also empowers them to pursue leadership positions. It is not always easy for women to step up to leadership roles. Many of us are not nurtured or shaped for it. But it is unthinkable to design, conduct, and write research without or with very few women in your science group, when half of the target population in research and development work is women. Therefore, women leading in science is a prerequisite to success in our work.
It is not always easy for women to step up to leadership roles. Many of us are not nurtured or shaped for it. But it is unthinkable to design, conduct, and write research without or with very few women in your science group, when half of the target population in research and development work is women. Therefore, women leading in science is a prerequisite to success in our work. Mulia Nurhasan, CIFOR-ICRAF scientist
This is the second in a series of Q&As with women scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF). Ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February), we asked them what motivates them, any barriers they overcame, what it means to them to be a woman in science, and why it’s important for women to have equitable positions and adequate representation in the sector. Read the first Q&A with bioenergy scientist Mary Njenga.
Monica Evans is a writer and community development practitioner based in Aotearoa New Zealand. Since completing her Masters in Development Studies in 2010, she has worked on environmental and community development projects in NZ, the Pacific and Latin America. She's particularly passionate about participation, creativity and well-being, and has a keen interest in ecology and sustainability. She lives in a small town on New Zealand's wild West Coast, where she teaches dance, grows vegetables and tends to her pet alpacas.
Elisabeth Garner holds a dual-title PhD in Women's Studies and Rural Sociology from Penn State University (USA). Her research background is in gender and rural development with a focus on the differentiated experiences, roles, and responsibilities in natural resource-based livelihoods and landscapes. Before joining CIFOR-ICRAF, Elisabeth has collaborated on gender-focused research with organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, USAID, and, most recently, Cornell University.