SHE Initiative: Addressing Gender Inequality in Science/Tech

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Uchechukwu Nnaike

Worried by the gender inequality in the field of science and technology, the Christopher Kolade Foundation, through the Stemma Hands-on Empowerment (SHE) Initiative is currently offering girls in Lagos secondary schools the opportunity to experience science and technology in relatable, interactive and fun ways.

The girls from 10 public secondary schools in the state are immersed in a variety of hands-on learning activities designed to broaden their knowledge of the fields of science and technology. The SHE initiative also seeks to engage them in enquiry; stir their intellectual curiosity, build their confidence, apprise them of female role models in the field, and equip them with demonstrable skills in targeted areas of science and technology.

The SHE learning agenda also include ethics, leadership and remedial education, which is delivered through residential science camps, in-school clubs, holiday camps and single-gender science fairs.

The foundation recently organised the second edition of the SHE Science and Technology Fair, where the students displayed their inventions intended to solve some societal challenges. The fair also provided an opportunity for the girls to listen to successful women in science and technology, gain from their wealth of experience and how they developed and sustained their interest and pursued a career in science and technology.

Speaking at the event, the founder, Dr. Christopher Kolade said it is wrong to address youths as leaders of tomorrow, but that they are leader today waiting for tomorrow’s opportunities.

“If you are leaders today, it means you are entitled to take some decisions today, and the benefits of the decisions you take today will come tomorrow. So in order to take competent decisions today, you must have a vision of what tomorrow will look like.”

He said that is why the foundation has focussed the students’ attention on those things that seem to be the criteria for making tomorrow beautiful – science, technology, mathematics, adding, “we must start doing things today in the areas of science and technology to qualify us to be leaders of tomorrow.”

He urged the students to seek to make an impact in the society, to do something to change the current situation in the country positively, as well as to imbibe the values of honesty, integrity, punctuality, among others.

The Managing Consultant of the foundation, Omobola Lana said the programme has had a positive impact on the girls as they now believe in themselves and what they can do and what the can aspire to, and the things they can achieve have grown exponentially.

“The programme is technology based but there is a compulsory leadership and ethics component. The combination of these and the girls achieving things with their own hands make them feel there is nothing they cannot achieve.”

In her remarks, the Deputy Governor of Lagos, Mrs. Oluranti Adebule commended the foundation for sustaining the initiative to encourage more girls to showcase their technological skills thereby helping to build their confidence that they too can achieve their dreams in the fields of science and technology.

She called for an enlightenment seminar for parents and guardians to change the mind-set that STEM is not girls, but for boys alone. She also appealed to all stakeholders to encourage more girls to take interest in STEM and demystify the falsehood of science and technology being the exclusive preserve of boys.

In a keynote address, the Managing Director of Siemens Nigeria, Mrs. Onyeche Tifase, stressed the importance of self-development and always believing in oneself and being curious, always asking questions because sometimes people are waiting for someone to ask for clarifications.

She said sometimes men seem to achieve more because they accept challenges, even the ones that seem difficult at the time, but women hardly take up such challenges. So to succeed in the science and technology sector, women should learn to always say yes when given new tasks and work hard to complete them.

She said societal perceptions also hold women back and prevent them from doing well in the STEM field which is erroneously believed to be men’s field. So women should challenge some of the false impressions and work hard and focus on being the best they can be.