We need more women and girls in science, now than ever: UNESCO Regional Director

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA), in partnership with UNWOMEN, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) and Elevate Trust, successfully celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February 2022 at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. The event brought together students from secondary schools, tertiary institutions as well as women-scientists and engineers to recognise, and celebrate the role of women in science and to inspire the next generation of scientists to pick up and stay in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Speaking at the event, the Director for UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, Prof. Lidia Brito, called for an improved and coordinated approach to ensure that the work done by women scientists is recognised. She said acknowledging people’s work was key in providing positive feedback to the scientists. Prof. Brito said established women scientists should be role models who inspire young girls to venture into sciences. 

She also surged the greater science community to work together, in providing mentorship programmes and opportunities to harness the available talents. 

Head of Climate Finance at AECF, Ms. Veronica Jakarasi-Gundu, called on women and girls in the sciences field to try to solve human and biodiversity problems, especially in these times of uncertain climatic conditions. She further called for increased collaboration to build stronger networks, saying solving such challenges requires multiple perspectives, experiences and talents.

Speaking on behalf of the University of Zimbabwe, Dean of Engineering, Engineer Shumba applauded the steps taken by the country and institutions of higher learning in an attempt to close the gender gap in STEM. 

In line with the theme of this year, he shed light on some of the work and research done by women in the fight against climate change. He went on to call for the broad participation and representation of women in advanced research and in the STEM workforce. He urged all key education actors to ensure that climate education and gender equality are anchored in the curriculum, since these are global challenges that must be addressed through a combination of local learning and action in addition to wider systematic mind-set shifts. 

The students also voiced their appreciation for such events as they afforded them an opportunity to interact and receive support from established women in science. They also asked for more mentorship opportunities to help them build successful, fulfilling and impactful careers in science. Some students also managed to secure mentorship opportunities during the event.