“Girls too dream of becoming engineers, researchers and technology leaders”
On 11 October, the United States Delegation to UNESCO - in collaboration with UNESCO’s Division for Gender Equality – organized an event, Moving the Needle on STEAM Education for Girls, shining light on the inaugural TeachHer training programme piloted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the end of August this year.
The central idea of the TeachHer partnership was highlighted by UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, in her opening remarks when she stressed that “despite high global demand in the technology and engineering fields, women are still severely under-represented in the STEAM workforce, across all regions of the world. The TeachHer partnership aims to bridge the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and design and Mathematics) gender gap in education through teacher training. She affirmed that “we simply cannot afford to leave aside half of our population, half of our brainpower, half of our creativity.”
This well-attended event was moderated by Saniye Gülser Corat, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Gender Equality. It brought together a teacher from Ghana, who participated in the first training programme, and representatives of partner organizations such as the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMESTEA), the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) and the Institute of International Education (IIE).
The enthusiasm in the room was palpable as participants from the first TeachHer training Masterclass shared their experiences with the audience. Nana Osei-Asibey, a mathematics teacher from Ghana, described how the training programme impacted her teaching and her class, especially girls. She stated that they had devised a school bag made of recycled plastic and re-used fabric, as part of their STEAM Girls Club activities.
Central to the programme, the key role of teachers in engaging girls in STEAM fields was underlined on many occasions. CEMESTEA’s representative, Mary Sichangi, stated that “teachers are the link between policy and practice,” and this was echoed by Hendrina Doroba from FAWE who mentioned that engaging school administrators and policy makers is also an important element of the training.
IICBA’s representative, Yumiko Yokozeki, stressed the programme’s focus on tapping into the local resources of the country, and stated that “if there is a challenge in Africa, the solution is also in Africa.”
All participants lauded the value of the TeachHer partnership, operating on a unique model bringing Member States, UNESCO regional field offices and institutes, global NGO leaders in STEAM training and local NGO partners together. Mary McKey, IIE’s representative, stated that all countries would be able to benefit from this type of partnership model, which is adaptable to all contexts.
Leading the TeachHer initiative, United States Ambassador, Crystal Nix-Hines, reminded the audience that only 28 percent of women account for the world’s researchers. In her closing remarks, she encouraged member states to support girls and women engagement in STEAM field through the partnership as it plans on scaling up to further countries, one of which will be Costa Rica.
The briefing was followed by a Q&A session in which audience members highlighted a keen interest in partnership.
Drawing on the decision of the Executive Board from April 2016, the TeachHer partnership builds on UNESCO’s work in promoting science education and rewarding women scientists through the L’Oréal Foundation. It was launched at UNESCO Headquarters in June 2016 together with Second Lady of the United States, Jill Biden, and the First lady of Costa Rica, Mercedes Peñas Domingo and targets educators in middle-schools where the dropout rates for girls are the highest and a time where girls are at the cusp of their transition to adulthood, when their future decisions can be impacted. The programme also supports countries in implementing STEAM programmes both in their formal curricula, as well as in after-school activities in order to inspire, equip, and sustain girls' interests in STEAM careers.
The first phase of the training programme reached 58 teachers and educators from 6 different African countries. The second phase of training is foreseen to take place in Central America (San José, Costa Rica) in mid-November 2016.
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