Panellists speaking at the 2021 International Day Of The Girl Child event on Monday have reiterated the need to include girls and women in national development through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Speaking on the PUNCH Webinar Series presented by the PUNCH Media Foundation with the theme, Girl Child Education, Technology and National Development, the panellists from different fields all agreed that there is no better time than the present for stakeholders to make a deliberate effort in girls inclusion in STEM.
The webinar, moderated by the Founder & Managing Director, Yellow Tamarind Productions, Isabella Adediji had the Country Director, Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, Founder & Executive Consultant, Lonadek Global Services, Dr Ibilola Amao, and Editorial Page Editor, PUNCH Newspaper, Joel Nwokeoma as panellists, and was live of Facebook and Zoom.
Speaking on the theme of the event, Ojigho pointed out the low rate of girls in STEM and the cause for such while noting the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on women’s roles in society.
She said, “The involvement of women and girls in STEM is very limited. This has to do with how girls are raised. COVID-19 pandemic pushed women back a lot. Women lost their jobs and had to take on more domestic chores.”
Meanwhile, Dr Amao highlighted the strides woman have accomplished in the digital and technological space even during the height of the pandemic, drawing on the need for girls to see themselves as capable men in any given role.
She said, “The pandemic accelerated digital transformation. It affected not just the manufacturing industry but also the creative industry. The digital transformation and the work from home trend open up the world for women to get work across time and geographical zones,”
“It is important for girls to see themselves in advertising messages and the media and not in subservient roles. Women can play just as effectively as their male counterparts in fintech, AI, etc and should be encouraged to participate in these industries,” she added.
On the role of the media in amplifying the successes of women in different fields, Mr Nwokeoma stressed that the media had the most important role to play in shaping the minds of both parents and teachers in seeing the true potentials of the girl child.
He said, “To achieve SDG 5, the interest of the girl child in STEM must be stirred and sustained. The media should be consistent in reporting breakthroughs in science. The media should also highlight the victories of female scientists. This will provide representation for the girl child.
“The media should also do positive reportage on STEM and the fact that girls can do STEM successfully. The media should deliberately put women at the front of STEM reportage. The media should also follow indigenous stories, not just the returnee breakthroughs. As there is no one path to success.”
In their closing remarks, the panellists emphasised the need to invest in STEM for girls and converting men to supporters of women inclusion.
Ijigho said, “There is a need to push publicity for what girls and women are already doing, and that will help dispel societal stereotypes of women coming to take over and such.”
“We need to convert more men to the women’s cause. Make them #heforshe. Schools have to invest in more activities that are not gender-specific and also offer counselling in STEM careers. Everyone needs to invest in STEM initiatives,” Dr Amao added.