Women and Girls play a critical role in science and technology for sustainable development.
Written by; Frederick H
This year 2019, from the onset presented us with a lot of questions to answer, nevertheless our will to look for answers and guarantee genuine solutions has grown. With the International Day of Women and Girls in science in mind – 11 February 2019, I wish to share the relevance of the reigning theme. “Investment in women and girls in science for inclusive green growth.” As we go about our lives in our small communities, regardless of status, let us remember the fact that each one of us can add a brick onto this world, but knowing the social standing of many societies all over the world, it is important for this generation to understand certain facts that will steer the world towards sustainable development. Every year, 11th February is celebrated as the International Day for women and girls in science, to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. In this short journey, I wish to share experiences and lessons learned, and how knowledge and deeper understanding of how best the global challenges such as water security, access to clean energy and climate change can easily be dealt with by utilizing the theme in issue.
I grew up in a society where most of the elders around, urged me to spend more time with the men in the family. Their reasons; I had to learn the kind of work meant for men, I had to go to school and pursue courses meant for men and surely, I had to mature into a real man and fend for my family. This was a creed of a sort, and I surely listened well. All these notions were also engraved in customs and the way the different families associated in my village. This brings me to two important terms, Sex and gender. Sex refers to our biological and physiological traits, whereas gender refers to the roles society assigns people based on their sex. For example, I once had a school teacher say that only men can be mechanics or civil engineers because they are bigger and stronger. Does this statement tickle your mind? If it does not, look at what is meant by gender stereotypes and gender stereotyping. A gender stereotype is a generalized view or preconception about attributes or characteristics that are or ought to be possessed by women and women or the roles that are or should be performed by men and women. Secondly, gender stereotyping is the practice of ascribing to an individual woman or man specific attributes, characteristics, or roles by reason only of her or his membership in the social group of women or men. The reality then is, longstanding biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science related fields. With the increasing population and high number of women in the global work force, basing on stereotypes to keep women and girls away from science related fields has encouraged the prevalence of the prevailing world challenges. We need to utilize all the available talent and skills, with more women and girls in science. This will come with revolutionary ideas that will tackle many challenges in this world.
Late last year, I met a youthful Zambian female entrepreneur, Chabota. A proprietor of a growing Information and computer engineering related company. I was not only wowed by her passion for technology, but impact on the development of her society and the people around her. At the age of 16, Chibota’s parents enrolled her into a Catering and service provision school. Where she learned a series of skills in bakery and home management, but this was not her passion. Her mother was proud of the fact that she had pursued a course that would make her a very good wife in the modern age. Regarding her future, Chabota had no say at that time, she recalled how she used to excel exceptionally well in the early years at high school, her love for physics and mathematics and her dream of setting up a windmill for her village. Her love for inventing solution providing innovations ran deep through her veins. Unfortunately, here she was, learning how to be a good wife in the modern age, just like her family thought. With a smile on her face, I remember her shaking her head and saying. “I remember by the time I was 18, after my course, a marriage proposal knocked at my door.” In actual sense, all had been arranged by the parents, they believed the family had prepared her so well, and she was ready to take care of children and her husband, since it was her primary role as a girl, turning into a woman. Little did the family know that destiny had a different opinion. Chabota had participated in a science essay competition where she excelled and emerged winner in the vocational schools category. This did not come with a certificate of excellence only, but a scholarship to join a public University. She joined the University of Zambia, where she pursued a degree in computer science. By the time she graduated in 2014, several viscous circles had been broken in her family, poverty, stereotypes and gender discrimination had been incapacitated. In all her endeavors, she never forgot her dream of setting up a windmill for her village. With the help of comrades in their information technology corporate fraternity, she was able to lobby for the extension of piped water into her village, putting a brick onto the castle – solution to water scarcity.
We have heard people say, “It is a woman’s job to stay home and take care of children.” Restricted to the domestic arena. Others opine, “Women are unable to make decisions as well as men, because women are more emotional than men.” Some Professionals believe, “Boys are better at spatial tasks while girls are better at verbal recall tasks.” This last statement, as a stereotype has encouraged societies to encourage more boys to take up courses in science related fields as opposed to girls. In actual sense, if anyone is exposed to the right environment and atmosphere from childhood, they can add value to any field, be it sciences or arts if given adequate training. No genuine reason to sideline girls and women when it comes to the science field. Stereotyping also comes from the root of our societies, where social belonging and self-efficacy is prioritized. In certain organized societies, society norms automatically disown any girl who chooses a path, different from that which the family chose for her. This fear to lose social belonging has kept them in the domestic arena, where the society thinks their self-efficacy is higher. Before we go into gender, we are all human beings, if our world is to develop, if we are to overcome the greatest of challenges in this world, the majority of the workforce in the world should be actively involved in ground breaking fields, for sustainable development. Female doctors can still make good wives and mothers, female engineers can build the nation and at the same time keep their families intact. Women and girls can also be bread winners in a home by utilizing their skills and knowledge in science related fields, sharing responsibility to improve the livelihood of family members.
Therefore, as a society that believes in sustainable development, we can do better. The participation of women and girls in science related fields should be strengthened. Women receiving less pay for the same job in the field of science only stifles the total income in their respective families. Women receiving lower compensation packages because they are women working in a science related fields dominated by men only freezes progress. In academic and professional fields, diversity ensures that those in authority may serve as role models for the next generation. Prince Wako foundation has not only dedicated its endeavours to the girl child, but also, serving as a role model to the next generation. Sustainable development will come as a result of availing solutions. This means that the majority of people in our society should freely participate in solution provision without discrimination and stereotyping. Getting more women and girls to enter and stay in science related fields will give the world a myriad of ideas and fresh views and ways of doing things, and thus inclusive green growth.