IGU/UNESCO Workshop on Women in Engineering

Young women participating in the 2013 Nigerian engineering outreach programme.

On 10 December 2013, UNESCO in partnership with the International Gas Union (IGU) hosted a Workshop on Women in Engineering at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. This workshop featured two roundtable discussions focusing on women and engineering in Africa and in the Arab States. The event was opened by Gretchen Kalonji, the Assistant Director-General of Natural Sciences, who gave a tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Roundtable on Women in Engineering in Africa

The first roundtable discussion highlighted the challenges that exist for young African women wanting to pursue education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This roundtable, entitled Women in Engineering in Africa: Enticing Young Women into STEM Education, examined STEM educational policies, curricula, teacher training, and female participation and identified ways to encourage more young African women to study STEM subjects.

Roundtable on Women in Engineering in the Arab States

The second roundtable, Women in Engineering in the Arab States: Identifying Best Practices for Attracting Women to Careers in Engineering, shed light on factors preventing women in the Arab States from entering the workforce in greater numbers despite the large percentage of engineering students that are women. This discussion underlined the social and cultural factors that deter women from joining the engineering workforce.


The outcome of this workshop is the creation of a report that identifies the existing socio-economic, cultural and educational constraints on women in engineering in Africa and in the Arab States based on the roundtable discussions.


The workshop agenda included opening addresses by the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and the President of IGU, Jérôme Ferrier, as well as a video message from Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sustainable Energy for All and IGU Wise Person.  Ms. Saniye Gülser Corat, Director of the Division of Gender Equality, UNESCO, provided concluding remarks.  The roundtables included gender, education, engineering, science and technology experts from government, academic, and civil society institutions in Africa and in the Arab States. These experts included:

  • Ms. Maha Ayoub, Deputy Ambassador of Sudan to UNESCO, Sudan
  • Ms. Anne Wangari Kirima-Muchoki, Chairperson, Kenya Investment Authority
  • Dr. Tonya Blowers, Programme Coordinator, Organization for Women in Science in the Developing World
  • Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General of Natural Sciences, UNESCO
  • Dr. Laila Rashed Iskandar,  Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Egypt
  • Dr. Amina Benkhadra, General Director, National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, Morocco
  • Dr. Fareeha Zafar, Government College University, Pakistan
  • Eng. Fadwa Abu Ghaida, President, Arab Women Engineers Committee, Federation of Arab Engineers

This event was sponsored by Total, GDF Suez, Oman LNG and Qatargas.

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