Vietnam Women’s Union and Kovalevskaia fund

At the early 70’s, in Princeton University, New Jersey State- one of the well-known Universities in America- a big demonstration by students took place on the way leading to the Institute of National Defense Study to protest against Vietnam War.

Two hundred students were arrested of whom 30 persons refused to pay fines, but accepted to be in prison to protest the Government. Among these students, a couple of Mr. Neal Koblistz and Ms. Ann Hibner- who later became Doctor of Mathematics and Doctor of History, has established the Kovalevskaia Fund.


Meeting with Vietnamese Mathematicians in various international scientific seminars and after the trip to Vietnam in 1978, Mr. and Mrs. Koblitz have developed their cooperation and support to the Mathematicians and Mathematics Institute in Vietnam. However, the idea to support the Vietnamese female scientists became true through their third visit to Vietnam in 1985. Given the great support by Vietnam Women’s Union and Madam Nguyen Thi Binh (former Minister of Education and Training Ministry), Mr. & Mrs. Kobliz decided to establish the Award Fund for Vietnamese female scientists in natural science. The Fund was named after Sophia Vacilievna Kovalevskaia the most outstanding Russian woman mathematician in the 19th Century. She was the first woman to gain the Degree of Doctor and the title of Professor and Academist o­n Mathematics. Her life was the theme of Ann Koblitz’s historial thesis for her Doctor degree. The thesis was published and the Kovalevskaia Fund came out from the small money of its copyright. Then, the Fund has been accumulated from this couple’s scientific publications and donations by a number of American progressive scientists.


Initially, the Fund was operated o­nly in Vietnam, then expanded to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru and South Africa. The Kovalevskaia Award Committee is presided by the former-State Vice-President Mme Nguyen Thi Binh. Its Standing Committee is the Vietnam Women’s Union, and its members are some representatives from several Ministries, Branches and scientists. Annually, the Committee confers the Award to the two most outstanding female scientists. Since 1993, the Awards have been given to o­ne individual and o­ne female scientists’ group.


Although the Awards are as modest as US$1500 for individual in kind as: books or equipments and US$2,500 for the group in cash for o­ne thematic research), they are very significant to recognize the Vietnamese female scientists’s great contribution. Kovalevskaia Awards have become a great honorable award among the Vietnamese scientists, meaningful encouraging Vietnamese women in research and in application in the context of various challenges and gender equality gaps.


For nearly past 2 decades, the Fund has awarded 25 individuals and 9 groups. Ms Ann and Mr. Neal Koblitz are very satisfied with the selection process done by the Kovalevskaia Award Committee of Vietnam, the active and effective operation by VWU in selection, awarding and communication of the Fund. Every two years, the Kovalevskaia Award Committee of Vietnam hosts a Get-together of the outstanding female students from different universities in the countries with Kovalevskaia award winners for sharing experiences and inspiration. In addition, the Kovalevskaia Fund has provided other supports to the Vietnamese women such as: providing scholarships to young talents in natural science; holding seminars o­n “women and science”, “women and agriculture”; supported Women’s Museum with audio equipments; and VWU Vocational training Centers with sewing machines.


Kovalevskaia Fund is a typical activity o­n international cooperation of Vietnam Women’s Union to enhance the role of women in natural science as well as VWU status nationally and internationally, thus contributing to promoting the overall advancement of Vietnamese women. Stemming from the idea of the Kovalevskaia award and in order to recognize women’s great contributions to all scientific, economic, cutural social fields...VWU has proposed and been possitively approved by the Prime Minister o­n 11 October 2003 to establish “Vietnam Women Award Foundation” with the resources mobilized from individuals and organizations inside and outside of the country.