The fifth UNESCO and UN-Women International Day for Women and Girls in Science has been held in Accra with a call on women to begin a new conversation to advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) policies that are more girls and women-centred. The event was organized by the Greater Accra STMIE in partnership with the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, NSBE Ghana, UNESCO, GES, UG, and schools.
Tackling some of the greatest challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — from improving health to combating climate change — will rely on harnessing all talent. That means getting more women working in these fields. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent and creativity. This Day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.
According to the Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mrs Patricia Appiagyei, stereotyping in STEM education continued to prevail in Ghana and if not managed, might widen gender gaps in science-related fields.
“We have to advocate for a purely STEM girls’ school or push for a 50 per cent admission in mainstream senior high school,” she said at a ceremony in Accra to mark the day last Wednesday. She said STEM education had become important in the 21st century where every aspect of life was becoming science and technology-driven.
Women and girls, she said, ought to take advantage of STEM education, especially in the new information-based and highly technological society. “The critical role of STEM, if taken seriously, will help Ghana respond to its socio-economic development challenges such as unemployment and discrimination,” she said.
The theme for this year’s celebration was: “Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth”. It brought together students from basic and junior high schools and tertiary institutions. The students joined accomplished women from different science backgrounds to empower them to strive for the best in science-related fields. The UN International Day for Women and Girls in Science was established with the aim to promote full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls.
The Head of Office and Representative from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to Ghana, Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, said there was the need to have effective strategies that would get more women and girls into science-related fields. He called for a concerted effort by all stakeholders to address the long-standing biases and gender stereotypes that drove women and girls away from science. “Government and non-state actors must implement programmes that encourage girls to overcome such stereotypes,” Mr Diallo said. He added that another strategy to consider was improving upon the teaching practices of Science teachers to make STEM programmes more appealing to both girls and women in society. He said there was the need to make the right investment in procuring the basic equipment that teachers needed to facilitate their lessons, stressing that, “this will better prepare teachers to impart practical and problem-solving skills to female students and increase their participation in science subjects”.
For his part, the Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Science, Professor Daniel Asiedu, advised the female academics and industry leaders to use the opportunity created by STEM to consolidate views and forge a community of excellence in STEM. He stated that by doing so, the young women would be encouraged and guided, which would create an opportunity for women in STEM revolution in Africa. He mentioned that to empower young women and girls, the college had secured scholarships from the Petroleum Commission for 20 needy but brilliant first-year female students in the college. “Our main goal is to reach a female enrolment of 50 per cent in the college to establish equal representation,” he added.
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on 11 February, is implemented by UNESCO and UN-Women, in collaboration institutions and civil society partners that aim to promote women and girls in science. This Day is an opportunity to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.
This year, the celebration of the Day at University of Ghana – Legon will gather experts from different sectors and backgrounds including key scientific partners, talented women scientists, representatives of UNESCO, Students, Teachers and the general public. The invited speakers and participants will discuss and examine the issue of gender gap in science.