Kyerewaa Akuamoah Boateng is my name. I am from the Ashanti Region of Ghana, grew up in Assin Fosu in the Central of Ghana, and had my senior high school at Afua Kobi Ampem Girls High School. I have years of experience in designing and implementing science engagement programs and currently, the Community and Public Engagement lead for research Scientists at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), at the University of Ghana. I lead several initiatives that seek to bring science closer to the public and am passionate about STEM appreciation among girls in Ghana. I implement school engagement, community interaction programs, and outreach events that target hard-to-reach, underserved, and at-risk groups on infectious and non-communicable diseases. I am also the founder of Girls Attain, a non-profit organization that empowers girls in small-scale mining communities and advocate for their sexual health. I hold a BA in Political Science and English and MA in Community Development.

Kyerewaa (in wine skirt) with a group of students and their tutors after an engagement

As a science engagement practitioner, I believe scientists and communities have stories to share, this encourages adaptability and localization. The exciting part of my work is bringing scientists and communities together to share these stories. My winning project uses a science engagement toolkit in the form of a docu-drama to engage the hearing impaired, their families, and communities to understand the genetics of deafness. Deafness in most communities is a sensitive topic and our researchers face challenges in recruiting such persons, their families, and communities for genetics research due to the lack of understanding in genetics research into deafness. People also express concerns about blood draw for genetic purposes because of misconceptions and myths surrounding the use of blood. This usually affects the rates of recruitment for genetics research.

I coordinated scientists, theater groups, deaf persons, schools, and together we created a science engagement toolkit in the form of a docu-drama to engage deaf persons, their families, and communities. The design of the docu-drama focuses on the perspectives of deaf persons and explains the genetics of deafness in simple languages. The docu-drama is easy to understand and help demystify the barriers posed by traditional, cultural, and religious perception on deafness and voluntarily giving blood samples.

Leading this, we have piloted and successfully engaged over 1000 persons including deaf families in five Regions of Ghana. We want families to understand the conditions of their deaf children.

Kyerewaa in picture with colleague participants at the just ended Falling Walls Science Summit 2021

Being part of the Falling Walls Science Summit 2021 has connected me to other science engagers who are equally finding solutions to challenges in their communities, and it’s encouraging. Falling Walls Engage provides a platform for people with a shared purpose of science to connect, learn and share. After my pitch, I got to interact with science engagers who would want to adapt and implement such toolkits of engaging hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations.

I believe my entry and pitch were unique. I was however intrigued by the pitch By Judy Baariu, on a mental health campaign in Kilifi County in Kenya.The project aims to tackle the issues of misinformation and myths about mental health among local communities. The methods of engagement are community-based and similar to mine.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending a night with a mosquito.” Every bit of information communicated by a scientist is important. Science is done when is communicated and without engagement, science is meaningless. Science engagement and communication continue to be explored in Ghana. Scientists in Ghana should not only give talks, write papers, and write proposals, but should be community inclined. They need to understand how communities’ function and perceive science. They need to plan, co-design, share decisions and give feedback to the communities they visit. At WACCBIP, we try to have a two-way communication and feedback with the communities we engage. I try to create space and opportunity for our scientists to share the process and results of their research works with the public especially on COVID-19, vaccines and misinformation.