Business Climate Community Development Science and Technology

Enhance education to increase participation of women and girls in science

Girl conducting experiments in the laboratory at St. Michael's Tongogara Secondary School Picture UNHCR

By Nhau Mangirazi

Sometime in March last year, a climate change advocacy group set foot in the rural outskirts of Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge within Manicaland province.

The refugee camp is situated about 420 km southeast of the capital Harare and was established in 1984.

All for Climate Action, an organization that promotes action on climate change had sports targeting women and girls.

‘‘Our goal was to raise awareness of climate change issues as a way of promoting sports among women and girls from marginalized communities. It made an impact and we hope to revisit the area this year again as it made a difference on how we take climate change, environment, and science among our communities,’’ Natile Gwatirisa the organization director and climate change advocate Spiked Online Media.

Her organization aims to empower communities through promoting action for climate empowerment and active participation of all civic society actors.

As Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, Gwatirisa noted that more needs to be done to achieve desired goals.

‘‘There is a need for more education on climate issues including the scientific research that helps communities to mitigate challenges being faced locally, nationally, and globally.

“There are more opportunities, innovation, ideas, and elevation, advancement. It goes well with this year’s theme that we must all take seriously at the family and community levels. We must be keen to empower the girl child to take up science as a tool for social development,’’ she added. Gwatirisa claimed that at least 20 percent of women have had research publications specifically focusing on climate change and science.

‘‘If 20% are women venturing into science and climate change research and the remainder (80%) are men, this a huge gap that needs to be covered so that we are at par in our approach for equality,’’ she explained.

Gwatirisa said climate change is affecting women and girls most as they work daily at home, and workplaces among other institutions.

‘‘Women and girls are the most vulnerable in society. There are few women and girls who are taking up science industry and innovation due to limited education. We need to enhance the education of women and girls in science fields to achieve what we desire globally. Access to education gives women and girls the key to being more innovative and finding their own solutions. Once a person understands climate change and its scientific implications as well as environmental issues, water, and sanitation as their own problem, you can easily work for solutions within your limitations. This is up to us as communities to invest more in the education system for women and girls in rural areas. This will support our goals for science as a tool for social development,’’ she said.

According to the executive summary of this year’s celebrations, hosted by the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation, (UNESCO) under the STEMfem Network, a flagship program of Elevate Trust, made its mandate to ensure that more girls take up STEM subjects, and pursue STEM careers.

The vision of the network is to empower girls and women to not only be employable within the STEM field but to be STEM entrepreneurs.

In line with its vision and will host the 2023 Women and Girls in Science Day under the Theme Girls Can Soar.

The theme is inspired by the need to encourage more girls and women to take up careers in the aviation and geospatial arena, bringing solutions in the two fields.

Objectives are aimed at ensuring that more girls and women are well educated on the different career prospects in aviation and geospace, igniting an attitude of innovation through problem-solving, creating a networking platform creating mentor-mentee relationships, to teach girls and women to identify problems and offering solutions using their knowledge of aviation and geospace.

It is targeting 80 primary school students. In commemoration of the International Day of Girls and Women in Science, STEMfem Network hosted events to encourage increased participation of women and girls in the aviation and geo-space disciplines.

‘‘Aviation connects people, cultures, and businesses across the globe and strengthens socio-economic development worldwide where both air passenger traffic and air freight traffic are expected to more than double by 2034, compared to 2016.

‘‘In 2016, airlines worldwide carried around 3.8 billion passengers annually with 7.1 trillion revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs). Fifty-three million tons of freight were transported by air, reaching 205 billion freight tonne kilometres (FTKs). Globally, every day, around 100,000 flights transport over 10 million passengers and around USD 18 billion worth of goods,’’ says the statement.
The international air transport sector today supports the employment of 62.7 million people worldwide and contributes 2.7 trillion dollars to the global Gross Domestic Product.

‘‘Despite the tremendous influence that both aviation and geospatial technology has on state development, it is unfortunate that women and girls, who are the majority of most populations worldwide, still have limited contribution and influence in these areas.

‘‘For instance, estimates vary, but available data tends to indicate that roughly 5.18 per cent of the pilots worldwide are women. While global numbers are hard to come by, estimates of the number of women in aviation in non-pilot careers at the national level can drop to below 5 percent (e.g. mechanics and flight engineers) and rise to as high as 79 per cent (e.g. flight attendants).

‘‘Likewise, Geospace Technologies is male-dominated with 69% of employees being male and 31 %being female.

‘‘One can be tempted to argue that this is a result of limited role models for women and girls in the field of STEM, which is characterized to be predominantly male. In addition, the narrative of women’s empowerment can arguably be said to have a greater focus on other areas of women and girls’ development, including sexual reproductive health, economics, and politics to mention but a few but little is mentioned regarding empowering women and girls in science,’’ reads the statement.

This year’s theme is Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance – (I.D.E.A) -Bringing communities Forward for sustainable and equitable development.

This year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDWGIS) focused on the role of Women and Girls and Science relating to the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) in review at the forthcoming High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), namely SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG17 on implementationGwatirisa concluded that government and all other stakeholders have a duty to ensure that education is enhanced for girls and women to prop up science. “We must strive for the best way in achieving scientific research and learning amongst ourselves especially giving girls and women a chance to experience the skills for social and economic development in mostly rural areas,” she said.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende