#WomenInScience: UNESCO In Partnership With Microsoft Marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in Kenya

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For a long time, the sciences were the purview of men. Women were resigned to the more “creative” career choices while men battled with the tougher sciences. The world has however changed and we are seeing more and more women graduating, specializing in and even conquering science-related fields. However, even with the numerous contributions in encouraging and engaging women and young girls, women continue to be excluded from fully participating in science.

According to a study conducted in 14 countries by UNESCO, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.

It is in regards to the this, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, in partnership with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE- Africa), Microsoft Kenya, African Women in Science and Engineering (AWSE), the Ministry of Education together with other key stakeholders and partners in gender equality and women’s empowerment in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), today came together to celebrate the International day of Women and Girls in science 2018.

The gathering, originally established by the United Nations, intends to provide visibility to women scientists who have made a difference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and to encourage found and female scientists as well as girls in secondary schools to look beyond the gender stereotypes and embrace STEM careers.

This year’s theme, Equality and Parity in Science for Peace and Development sets the tone for an agenda that includes mentorship talks, role modelling for the young girls and sharing of experiences (both the highs and lows) by successful women scientists working in a male dominated field.

Among some of the speakers today were accomplished women in the field of STEM including Prof. Catherine Jane Ngila – AU Kwameh Nkrumah Award Winner in Research and Deputy Director Morendat Institute of Oil and Gas, Ms. Amrote Abdella, Regional Director of Microsoft 4Afrika, Ms. Amelia Omollo, An Engineer in the Kenya Airways Aviation Industry, Ms. Cynthia Ichamiya, Civil Engineer and Chair at UNESCO among many others.

Speaking at the event, Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, UNESCO Regional Director said that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened to have more girls by equally having Governments play a key role.

She added and said that it was our responsibility also as women who have gone through that path to show the young ones the way. She also added that this forum is important to show that both women and girls can make a difference given an opportunity especially in sciences which are specific and quite cross-cutting.

Alex Nyingi, Philanthropies Lead for Sub Sahara Africa at Microsoft added that as Microsoft, they will continue to identify female role models in STEM to mentor and support girls and encourage them to excel and Also get the skills required for them to effectively achieve their goals. He added: Over the past few years, Microsoft has run more than one programme to encourage girls in STEM. Through our DigiGirlz Days we have been able to reach hundreds of girls per event in seven different countries.

Furthermore, through #MakeWhatsNext we’ve been able to support FAWE-Africa since 2016 through training youth, teachers and students to adopt STEM curricula and learning materials that are gender responsive. These programmes forward our stance on gender equality, all the while staying true to our mission to bring digital transformation to Africa.

It is our hope that meaningful action will be sparked from today’s international celebrations, not just across the globe but across the country, especially in the rural areas where digital disruption is yet to fully immerse itself. It is only by doing this, fully involving girls at a young age and giving them the support they need – both through adequate resources and through sustainable mentoring – that we’ll be able to see a true change happening in the field of STEM in Kenya.

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