The African Business Centre for Developing Education (ABCDE), a Non-Governmental Organisation, and partners are advocating support for girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to enhance their skills in the field.
They also called on the private sector, international organisations, schools, and parents to sponsor girls to take up STEM-related courses to develop interest in the field for more girls to enroll.
This came to light during the commemoration of the 2021 ‘International Day of Women and Girls in Science’ in Accra, on the theme: “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19”.
Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, the Chairman of the ABCDE, who hosted the commemoration via a virtual platform, said although the private sector was working to promote more girls in science, there was still room for improvement.
Girls, he said, should be given access to computers and other gadgets to learn and not be made to stay behind, especially to engage in household chores when the world needed them.
Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, the UNESCO Country Representative, who read speeches on behalf of the UNESCO Director-General, Mrs Audrey Azoulay, and Mrs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director, UN Women, said the COVID-19 crisis had demonstrated once again the critical role of women and girls in science.
Research conducted by women had made many crucial breakthroughs in fighting the pandemic from understanding the virus and controlling its spread to developing diagnostic test and vaccines, he said.
At the same time, there was growing evidence that the pandemic had hit women and women scientists harder than men because of the imbalance in distribution of unpaid care and domestic tasks.
Mr Diallo said stereotypes and gender-based inequalities continued to prevent many girls and women from taking up and remaining in careers in science across the world.
“The UNESCO forthcoming science report shows that only 33 per cent of researchers are women despite the fact that they represent 45 and 55 per cent of students at the Bachelors and Masters levels, respectively, and 44 per cent enrolled in PhD programmes,” he said.
“UNESCO and UN Women, therefore, call on all to step up efforts to close the gender gap in science and address the norms and stereotypes, while creating and preserving expectation or limited career paths for girls.”
Only three per cent of females in higher education choose Information and Communication Technology, he said, adding: “We need sciences and sciences need women. It is not only about making commitment to equal rights, it’s also about making science more open and diverse.”
Mrs Regina Honu, the Chief Executive Officer of Soronko Academy, said it was imperative that organisations invested in human capital in STEM as digital was transformative.
“They must invest in developing talents to outsource them to the world. Organisations must make room for partnerships and give opportunities to young people to learn for experience and contribute to the growth of the organisation and the nation at large,” she said.
She appealed to parents to change their mindsets that STEM-related jobs were masculine and encourage their girls to enroll in the opportune area.
“If your child is playing a video game or on a computer, it is not a waste of time. You must invest in your daughters’ education, talent and help them to develop their full potential. Gone are the days when they used to say the girl’s place is in the kitchen,” she said.
Madam Zulaiha Dobia Abdullah, Co-Founder, Divaloper, a capacity-building social enterprise, said the technological field did not only revolve around technical practices, but included digital skills, marketing, and social media.
“I want to tell the young girl watching me that you have a lot of potential and nothing good comes easy, just explore more and you will have your footing in tech…,”she said.
She called for partnership from all sectors and interested parties to help unearth more talents in the north.
The programme was sponsored by Interplast Limited and Onga Seasoning from Promasidor Ghana Limited.