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Women, Science, Biotechnology:
What does the Future hold for the Mediterranean?

Turin (Italy) 29-31 janvier 1999

Turin Declaration

International Mediterranean Women's Forum
UNESCO Network

Third International Congress

At the Mediterranean level
At the national level


The topic of this Third Congress was chosen taking into account on the one hand the increasing role played by science in women’s and men's life, on the other the new political and ethical problems it necessarily implicates. Another goal of the Congress was to prepare documents in view of the UNESCO/ICSU World Conference on Science to be held in Budapest in June 1999, where the Forum will represent the basin of the Mediterranean.

Five years after the United Nations World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995), when the States agreed on a Platform for Action to improve women's position at power levels in the scientific and technological fields, we have found out that in all the countries of the Mediterranean the situation is still alarming, despite the parallel growth in the number of women who have embarked on technical and scientific careers.

Once acquainted with the results of the regional conferences held in Latin America (Bariloche in Argentina, October 1998) and in Europe (Bled in Slovenia, November 1998), and in accordance with the tradition of the International Mediterranean Women’s Forum meetings, at the end of the work we adopted the present Declaration, known as the Turin Declaration. The signatories and the International Mediterranean Women’s Forum–UNESCO Network commit themselves to accomplishing – directly or through an awareness-building campaign involving decision makers – a number of actions aimed at strengthening these positions.     Back to top

  1. The most serious problems relevant to the issue ‘women, science and biotechnology’ in the Mediterranean nations (causing an imbalance among the countries of this area) are: the difference between men and women in the scientific and technological field; and the disparity between scientific and technological levels existing in this part of the world.

  2. Poverty, i.e. the lack of a scientific culture, makes the efforts of the countries willing to develop scientific and technological research illusive, and looms heavily over the future of these nations. At the same time, the lack of an equal educative reality, which is glaring in some countries, is present almost everywhere in the Mediterranean area when it comes to scientific teaching. Also, for this kind of education, teachers too often reproduce the stereotypes of differences between sexes.

  3. Science obeys an ideological, economic and political logic that influences its choices – too often guided by the demands of economic efficiency today – and all this leads, for example, to the exclusion of certain molecules or diseases from the field of research, although they still affect whole peoples. Besides, owing to the power to intervene and transform human genetic make-up, new ethical problems arise.

  4. To provide an answer to these problems, all Mediterranean women assert that science and technology should develop in a context of freedom and democracy to guarantee the access to knowledge. It is therefore impelling for women of the Mediterranean, aware of this delicate matter, to indicate the ethical criteria to be fulfilled for the creation of concrete programmes on specific themes, valid for all cultures. It is essential for women to partake in the orientation of research by occupying key positions.

It is thus urgent to awaken civil society to the effects of science and technology on women’s and men's everyday lives and to the need for a better understanding of scientific matters. Issues concerning the future of science and technology should be considered not only within the scientific community, but also within a broader framework, as they involve all citizens, women and men alike.

  1. Concerning the inequality between women and men, the International Mediterranean Women’s Forum notes that the exclusion of women is the same also in the economic, social and political spheres. Besides, science neutrality – which is supposed to recognize talent without taking into account sex – is deeply undermined by many concrete examples of women scientists whose merits have not been rewarded or rewarded very late.

The signatories of the Turn Declaration commit themselves to:

At the Mediterranean level     Back to top

  1. Encouraging the diffusion of knowledge and the exchange of people among the different countries, supporting especially young women researchers; developing contacts between scientific institutions (university, research centres, etc...) of the different countries of the Mediterranean basin with a view to developing common projects for training and research.

  2. Making sure that women take full advantage of scientific and technological agreements among countries of the Mediterranean.

  3. Supporting projects aimed at cooperation and exchange of resources in order to solve common or specific problems found in the Mediterranean area.

  4. Creating a local scientific body known as ‘Women and Sciences of the Mediterranean’ capable of updating statistics on the positions of women and the roles women play in different disciplines, promoting the diffusion of information on women’s scientific activities and defining a list of skills and scientific talents.

  5. Creating a group of women scientists inspired by the Italian ‘Donne e Scienza’ (Women and Science), coordinated by the International Mediterranean Women’s Forum in order to realize cooperation between the Northern and Southern Mediterranean on scientific projects and activities.

  6. Monitoring women scientists' groups already organized into associations and promoting the creation of other groups where these are lacking.

  7. Monitoring existing committees on bioethics to gain further information, put together and assess documents, and promote participation in these committees by women scientists; making possible the creation of national committees on bioethics in countries where these still don't exist.

  8. Developing on-going distance training.

  9. Setting up international courses, under the responsibility of the International Mediterranean Women’s Forum, with the help of the CIF/OIL in Turin and UVO/ROSTE in Venice, to train women in the field of science popularization and scientific applications. These courses will be devoted to training women who run associations and small ‘artisanal’ or rural companies. The courses will provide tools for obtaining better information about women and the real situation with regard to the use of science and biotechnologies. The objective will be to make possible public debates on science, its purpose and consequences in different countries.

  10. Creating, from 1999 onwards, annual grants for two young women (from 18–26 years-old), one from North and the other from South of the Mediterranean, wishing to undertake scientific studies. These grants are in memory of Francesca Maria Buzzetti and are at the disposal of the International Mediterranean Women’s Forum thanks to the UNESCO Centre in Turin.

At the national level     Back to top

  1. Promoting actions addressed especially to young women and their families to fight all prejudices that block the access of a greater number of women to scientific careers.

  2. Implementing actions to support girls' orientation toward the full spectrum of careers,

  • especially training teachers to motivate – thanks to a new pedagogy – the younger generation, without any discrimination, and to develop its scientific curiosity;

  • creating programmes using tools that are adapted to the educational needs of the various countries.

  1. Multiplying actions aimed at encouraging the participation of women in defining policies and choosing priorities in education, scientific research and budget management. These actions will be promoted from within, with the help of existing bodies and institutions, and through non-governmental organizations.


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