The EBRI Foundation (European Brain Research Institute), named after Italian neurobiologist and Nobel laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini, announced it would allow some female Afghan students to pursue their studies and research activities in Rome.
Since the Taliban rose back to power, it has become increasingly difficult for women in Afghanistan to attend university. The EBRI Foundation aims at restoring their hope for a better future and, at the same time, celebrates Professor Levi-Montalcini‘s lifelong commitment to supporting and empowering other women.
The project is organized together with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the support of TIM, Angelini Pharma, and Unidata. The EBRI Foundation symbolically decided to officially launch the project in conjunction with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
The first student from Afghanistan has already arrived in Italy, and the EBRI Foundation is looking for other researchers to join the project.
Many Italian actors, including NGOs and enterprises, are committed to defending women’s rights in Afghanistan, despite the difficult conditions on the ground. INDiplomacy recently published the story of Italian textile company Ratti, which through an UN-coordinated initiative supports the economic independence of Afghan silk artisans.
“We are very grateful to the EBRI Foundation and to all those who made this important project possible,” said Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano, Director General for Public and Cultural Diplomacy at the Italian Foreign Ministry. “This initiative will allow a young and deserving researcher from Afghanistan to continue her studies at a recognized Italian center of excellence. Ever since the outset of the Afghan crisis, the Italian civil society has shown great solidarity. The Foreign Ministry will contribute to concretizing the legitimate aspirations for a better future of young Afghan men and women.”
The first researcher, a Physics graduate, was found with the help of the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS, Trieste) and is already in Italy. She will join EBRI next June. The young researcher will take part in several ongoing projects that use Big Data analysis, artificial intelligence applied to Neuroscience, and analysis of electrical and optical signals in the brain, to combat neurodegenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
“EBRI strongly believes in this project – explained Professor Antonino Cattaneo, member of the Accademia dei Lincei, and President of EBRI – that gives female researchers the possibility of furthering their aspirations and our Foundation the opportunity to confirm its international projection. We do not want to stop here and instead intend to assure continuity to the support given to young women from Afghanistan by seeking additional partners to join this initiative of great scientific and humanitarian substance.”
For EBRI, the Afghan students will also represent a way of potentially enriching its research. “We are certain that the girls will be able to greatly contribute to our research and, for us at EBRI, it will be an exciting experience of cultural, scientific, and human cross-fertilization,” said Professor Enrico Cherubini, Scientific Director at EBRI. He added: “We are excited to be able to offer young Afghan female researchers the possibility of being able to continue their studies at EBRI, an Institute that has always had its focus on women and scientific research.”
Dr. Agnese Cattaneo, Chief Medical Officer at Angelini Pharma, said: “This initiative promotes a two-way exchange in which we offer young Afghan women a concrete opportunity of personal and professional growth while they enrich Italian research at a cultural and human level, offering all of us and our students an example of resilience, courage, and passion for studying and knowledge. As a physician, manager, and woman, I am happy and proud to be able to contribute, together with my company, to this important project to support women in the study of science and their right to education.”