APWEN Makes Case for Girl-child in Engineering

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Funmi Ogundare

The Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) has called on the international community, states and individuals to work together so that there can be equality in the field of engineering for the girl-child.

The President of the association, Mrs. Funmilola Ojelade, who said this recently at this year’s International Day for Women and Girls in Science with the theme ‘Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth’, said such efforts will create more awareness on gender issues.

She said the day, by resolution of the United Nations, is an opportunity to promote full and equal access to and participation of women and girls in science so as to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

“The theme for this year’s programme is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.

Recent studies show that there still exists a significant gap in the number of girls in schools compared to that of boys, especially in many developing countries like Nigeria. The gap is even wider when it comes to girls in the field of science and technology.

“Only about 30 per cent of world researchers are women from a recent data released by UNESCO. According to the United Nations, science and gender equality are critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals five and nine.”

While appealing to more girls to consider engineering as a career, the president said, “In a male-dominated space, there are unique women who, despite all odds against them, have made excellent achievements just as their male counterparts in various fields of the sciences.”

Ojelade recalled some of the women who have made a mark in the field of engineering saying, “Ebele Okeke, a woman of many firsts. She is Nigeria’s first female civil engineer and the first female Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. She was also the first engineer to hold that post. In 2010, she was appointed Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Ambassador for Nigeria by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Geneva. An organisation within the UN system in 2010 and by 2011, she was elected the lead spokeswoman for sanitation and water for all of the Global Partnership for Water and Sanitation, New York, USA.

“Professor Grace Alele-Williams is also a first at different levels of achievement. She is the first Nigerian female to earn a PhD in Mathematics, the first female Professor of Mathematics, and the first female Vice-Chancellor of University of Benin.

“Another is one of the pioneer Nigerian researchers in the field of Nanotechnology which is an emerging area in sciences and engineering. Dr. Zainab Yunusa is an electrical engineer, a lecturer and a researcher who has made breakthrough researches on nano gas sensor using novel carbon nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes, carbon fibres and graphene nanoribbons for the detection of hydrogen and ammonia gases. She is currently working on harnessing our local materials for the development of nano gas sensor for the detection of toxic gases in the environment as a result of pollution. Zainab is currently a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Bayero University, Kano.”

Others she said include: Professor Nneka Okeke, a distinguished scientist who has made tremendous contributions in the field of Physics and an environmental biochemist, soil scientist and toxicologist; Dr. Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi, an astitute scientists whose work focuses on waste management, pollution prevention and phytoremediation.

She listed some of the programmes slated to celebrate the day and to raise awareness and visibility on gender issues to include; a presentation to secondary school students on the theme of the day, which held in Enugu; open science fair in Kano in collaboration with IHS Towers, a telecom infrastructure company, which also featured a career talk to students on the subject of STEM and engineering, coding, robotics, and programing workshop and a site visit to a telecoms company.
“In Abuja, APWEN also joined the women in aerospace to mark the day.”