What you need to know:
- More room has been created for girls in recent years as efforts to ensure they go to school and complete their education bear fruit.
- However, Unesco says less than 30 per cent of researchers are women and only 30 per cent of female students select Stem-related fields in college.
In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11, the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognise girls’ rights and address their unique challenges. Enormous feats have been made by girls and women worldwide.
There are more women in various career fields, including those hitherto a preserve of men — such as politics, leadership and science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and they are only just starting to gain recognition.
More room has been created for them to do so in recent years as efforts to ensure girls go to school and complete their education bear fruit. Stereotypes such as boys holding more importance than girls and societal inclinations like child marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM) continue to be demolished.
Still, the number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) is unacceptably low. Unesco says less than 30 per cent of researchers are women and only 30 per cent of female students select Stem-related fields in college.
Girls face systemic constraints that contribute to reducing their focus on Stem. The curriculum reinforces that Stem careers are for men. A mathematician is illustrated as a bespectacled man in a white dustcoat. Teachers and parents often under-estimate the ability of girls in Stem and impress this on them as they grow up. Society reinforces traditional gender roles and assumptions about ‘soft’ careers for girls. And girls have fewer role models in Stem.
Giving women equal opportunities to pursue Stem careers helps them to thrive. It empowers them economically and ensures a diverse and talented Stem workforce. The more women in Stem careers, the more the girls have role models who inspire them to study science.
Women have been at the forefront of research on the knowledge of Covid-19, techniques to test for it as well as development of the vaccines. This will be one of the agenda during the virtual conference meeting taking place at the UN headquarters today.
As the 2022 General Election draws nearer, I look forward to seeing many more women fight for and clinch political positions. It would be in the best interest of Kenya to have more female candidates take political seats other than the expected woman representative position. Women are seen as not capable of leadership. Hence, women leaders inspire young girls, upcoming scientists and leaders.
We must encourage girls by making them believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind on.
That nobody should bring them down with the conviction that they are too ambitious, too intelligent, too ground-breaking, too intimidating. In addition, we must create safe spaces and opportunities for girls to make their hopes and dreams a reality.
Lastly, gender equality and the rights of girls and women must be achieved for the world to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
That will ensure a just, inclusive, and is sustainable world for ourselves and future generations. Remember, tomorrow’s female leaders and innovators will be determined by how we uplift girls today.
Ms Muathe is a forensic science student at University of Central Lancashire, UK. [email protected]