Pushing for Gender Balance

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Peter Uzoho writes that through her ‘Mayen Adetiba Technical Boot Camp for young girls, Mrs Mayen Adetiba, the principal partner of Delkem Associates, is determined to see women in Nigeria equal their male counterparts in the engineering profession

Through her well-meaning platform, ‘Mayen Adetiba Technical Boot Camp for Girls (MATBC)’, one of Nigeria’s finest female engineers and Principal Partner of Delkem Associates, Mrs Mayen Adetiba, is determined to see women in Nigeria equal their male counterparts in the engineering
profession. Recently, the second edition of the boot
camp’s award and prize giving ceremony, a platform targeted at raising the interest of female children in the engineering vocation, was held in Lagos.

Over 150 junior female students from about 15 public secondary schools in Lagos State thronged the Bank PHB Hall of the Rotary Club on the popular Ladoke Akintola Street, Ikeja. MATBC was founded to inspire young female school girls to have interest in engineering. It is also a well-articulated plan to bridge the wide gender gap in
the profession.

The students who performed well in the written exercise that was given to them during the workshop sessions which held two days earlier, were rewarded with prizes, ranging from brand new laptop computers, IPads, phones, medals and trophies, as well as cash prizes.

The programme was hosted under the auspices of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN), a division of the
Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), to specially honour Adetiba as one its founding members for her immense contribution to the profession and the development of the country. This year’s edition
focused on the theme: “Creativity–The Povot for Sustainable Development.”

The programme chaired by the founding President of APWEN, Mrs Johanna Maduka, also had the Co-founder of Telnet Nigeria Limited, Dr. Nadu Denloye, as the special guest of honour.

The children appeared at the occasion decked in complete school attires. Each of them came along with the handworks given to them earlier during the workshop sessions. Seated in spherical tables
according to their schools, they conversed among themselves as they watched events unfold. Some of them were called up at intervals to share with the guests their experience during the workshop sessions.

During the workshop sessions, the students were taught how to construct sturdy bridges using home-made material. They were also trained in robotics, and were taken on industrial visits to a motorcycle assembly plant to help them have practical experience. These were aimed at ensuring that they pursue a career in engineering through exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

They told what they had learnt at the workshop as they displayed prototypes of some of their engineering constructions to the audience. The kids emphasised the importance of engineering to the development of the nation as amazed audience cheered them on.

Concept

During her keynote address, Adetiba who is also the Managing Director of Mayad Limited explained that the idea of setting up the MATBC was
to respond to the wide gender imbalance in the engineering profession by nurturing young girls’ technical and creative skills. This, she
maintained, would start from raising their interest in STEM, through motivation by female professionals who have succeeded in the engineering vocation.

According to her, by mere hearing of mathematics, physics, chemistry and the likes, young girls get scared, saying “it is because there is nobody who is encouraging them. They need encouragement, they need to be told that there is nothing special about it”.

“When I was in secondary school, I went to a Baptist school, we used to have a lot of teachers from America. My geometry teacher was an
American and we used to be very scared of that subject. But an elderly lady would try to make us understand that there was nothing particularly special about geometry. It calmed me down and I saw that after that I was doing very well,” she recounted.

The Akwa Ibom-born chartered civil/structural engineer and fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, disclosed that close to N5 million
was being spent on the project since they started it last year. She is bent on improving the knowledge of the girls until a 50-50 male/female
target is achieved in the engineering profession in Nigeria.

“We are bent on improving the knowledge of our young ones. We teach them not only science, we also teach them home economics, how to take
care of the house. We also teach them how to conduct themselves in public places. This is a good avenue for us because we are able to identify the areas of their problems and write to the Ministry of
Education concerning these problems.

“We are looking for a bigger space to enable the children have more learning space. We are also looking for a situation where we can have
partners to increase this initiative. I can say we are improving each year, the awards were not there last year, this is the first time we are giving awards. We pray that a time will come in Nigeria where we
will have 50-50 female and male engineers because the more engineers we have, the better our infrastructure,” she noted.

Earlier in her welcome speech, the President of APWEN and Chief Engineer at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Dr. Felicia Agubata, said the association’s mission was “to continuously increase awareness that engineering is a career for girls, thereby improving the strength of female engineers; to encourage women to achieve
professional excellence as engineers and leaders; to promote STEM as a positive force in enhancing the quality of life”.

She said the workshop session with the girls had been exciting and rewarding for both students and teachers, adding: “150 junior secondary school children were taught how to be creative. They were made to make sturdy bridges using homemade materials (everyday materials). They also had robotics training as well as industrial
visit to a robotics factory and the Pen cinema bridge just like the one they constructed with sticks for practical experience”.

Alongside the student workshop, their respective teachers had their own session, the STEM teachers’ training where seasoned instructors
trained them on 21st century STEM subjects delivery methods etc.

Agubata also noted that the MATBC event was targeted at encouraging junior secondary school girls to be creative, innovative and inventive
in technology, saying that the idea was to give them hands-on and practical experience through speaking sessions, experiments and site
visit to engineering companies.

“This programme is part of APWEN’s effort at improving the participation of girls in STEM education with a view to pursuing a career in
engineering”.

Accolades

The APWEN President however said the day’s occasion was “to celebrate one of our own, one of the very best the engineering profession has to
offer and it is indeed right and proper that we give honour to those who have earned it by dint of hard work, vision, leadership and service to humanity”.

She further said: “In our estimation and practically speaking, this event serves us better than the conventional post- humous activities that have become standard in Nigeria. It is our firm belief that this is the right way to celebrate and honour one of our founders, an inspirational figure, an engineer and an administrator who blazed the trail in the engineering profession. She is among the few Nigerian women who are pressing for progress of emergent Nigerian women. The bottom line is that our shinning start should be celebrated in their
life time.

“As we celebrate our pacesetter, a humanist and a great patriot, we pray that God will bless and keep her for many, many, many more years
to come in good health and in the service of humanity”.

Also eulogising Adetiba, Maduka described her as a remarkable woman and role model.
“Mrs. Mayen Adetiba is a remarkable woman, we started this association together. Well, I started it and I advertised for colleagues. She was one of the first to respond; so she became the secretary. She is a civil/structural engineer and apart from her duties as a professional engineer, she carried out so many projects and structures–roads in civil engineering, buildings and so on. She is a role
model,” she said.

Also commenting on the essence of the MATBC, Maduka said only few girls were participating in the engineering profession till date, saying they maybe be less than 10 per cent of the total population of
engineers in Nigeria.

“So when we organise this event, it is actually to encourage young girls to study science and mathematics which are the subjects that
used to terrorise girls in those days because the professions outlisted in our time that were left for women were teaching and maybe nursing. You don’t find so many men in the nursing profession but you will find so many women there. So when professions are being classified, engineering is one that people believe girls shouldn’t study,” she explained.

Charge

While speaking on the theme of the occasion, the special guest of honour and Co-founder of Telnet Limited, Dr. Nadu Denloye, stressed the need for girls and women to move with same pace with the evolving world driven by STEM.

“You all know that the world is evolving and you will find out that what we are doing today may be obsolete in 10 years. STEM have become pivotal
over the years and if you want to have a successful career, you must grow yourself in these aspects.

“If we as women are not part of the world and are not contributing to the development of the world, then why are we here? We must know
that we all have a shared responsibility of this world. As women, we have definite attributes that we can bring to bear to make the world a
better place. This is the aspect on sustainable development,” Denloye
said.

Winners

The highpoint of the occasion was the presentation of prizes to some of the students and schools for performing excellently in the exercise
given to them.

In the student category, a student of Onike Girls Junior High School, Yaba, Miss Precious Deminiwei, who emerged the best performer in the
written exercise, clinched the first position and was rewarded with a brand new HP Laptop computer.

Miss Mariam Alade of Wesley Girls Junior Secondary School, Yaba, won
the second position and went home with an IPad- Techno Dropped 10D, while Miss Olushola Damilola of Ikeja Junior High School took the
third place and was rewarded with a Techno Y2 Android Phone.

Also in the school category, Ikeja Junior High School was crowned the champion after a spectacular performance by its contingents. The
students were decorated with the gold medals and were presented with the trophy for their school.

The Girls Junior Academy, Lagos Island, won the Silver medal, while Onike Girls Junior High School, Yaba, went home with the Bronze medal. In addition, the students were also presented with cash sum of N50, 000 each.