By Byron Mutingwende
The Forum for African Women Educationalists – Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) is working to promote the uptake and performance of girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
“As an organisation that has been working in schools in Zimbabwe since 1998, FAWEZI has been implementing various projects to promote girls education. Central to our work has been the promotion of the uptake and performance of girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” said Mrs Irene Mukondo, the Chairperson of FAWEZI at a meeting held in Harare on 13 February 2019.
The Forum for African Women Educationalists – Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) is an affiliate to FAWE, a Pan-African organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. FAWE, which is represented in 35 countries in Africa, was founded in 1992, with the goal of promoting access, increasing retention and enhancing the quality of education for girls and women in Africa.
Its vision is that of a nation where gender disparities in education are eliminated and all girls access education, remain in school and complete their studies at all levels.
Its mission is to work at provincial, district and school levels, together with partners, to create positive societal attitudes, policies and practices that promote equity for girls in terms of access, retention, performance and quality of education.
From 2005, FAWEZI carried out a number of interventions. It piloted the Integration of Gender in Science and Technology in Africa (IGSTA) through support from FAWE.
It works with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) in running Science Camps in Schools. FAWEZI implemented the Gender Responsive Pedagogy for Teachers training colleges and in schools.
The organization ran a number of competitions for girls including the STEM essay competitions for girls (2018) , Innovative projects competitions (2017) and the STEM Radio quiz competitions (2016).
It also held science camps for Girls – Digigirlz Day in partnership with MICROSOFT Kenya (2015), Science Camp at Epworth High School (2017). FAWEZI Supported Provincial Girls awards in STEM; exposed girls to site visits /excursion with companies and universities like the Schweppes plant visit in 2016; and donated laboratory equipment to s schools in the Epworth – Mabvuku -Tafara District (Oriel Girls, Tafara 1, Tafara 2, Domboramwari, Mabvuku and Epworth High Schools) and 3 state of the art weather stations to Oriel Girls, Manyame and Mabvazuva High Schools.
It also coordinates mentorship sessions for girls by women in the STEM fields, some of them FAWEZI Alumni. It partnered with other stakeholders in STEM activities like Women in TechnologyEevent (2018) by The Technology Transfer, Commercialization & Licensing Centre at Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) and the Science Fare Zimbabwe.
Nqobile Nkiwane, the FAWEZI Public Relations Officer said her organisation is currently in the last year of implementing a 3-year STEM project funded by the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF), which is targeted at creating an interest and excellence in STEM by the girls from selected schools in the Epworth – Mabvuku -Tafara District.
As a means of sustaining our interventions FAWEZI launched a ‘Women In STEM Forum’ on the 13th of February 2019 as a means of mobilising women in STEM to support and commit their time and or resources to promoting STEM for girls.
“The launch of the forum has been aligned to the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February) which ran under the theme: “Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth”. This day is also a time for FAWEZI to reflect on its work in enhancing women and girl’s participation in STEM,” Nkiwane said.
Engineer Farai Mavhiya, the Vice Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers (ZIE) encouraged girls to take up STEM courses in the manner she did despite the fact that she was among the very few women engineers at the time she went to university.
The Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers (ZIE) Women in Engineering (WIE) Division is a division where women in all engineering disciplines are encouraged to participate in the activities of the Profession.
“Traditionally, women are expected to be at home, church, or charity work only eand so forth. As WIE,we are here to work hand in hand with fellow male Engineers to participate in socio economic issues around ZIMASSET.
“Our vision is to be recognised as a credible institution whose members are leading players in wealth creation and sustainable growth in Zimbabwe. Our vision is to enables our members to consistently provide innovative, workable and economic solutions to engineering problems and challenges in society through upholding high engineering standards and ethical values in the practice of the profession,” Engineer Mavhiya added.
She added that ZIE WIE statistics have gradually grown since 2011. This is evidenced by the increase in women actively involved in the Institutional activities and appointed to the ZIE board, ECZ Council and Parastatals and Institutions of Higher Learning Boards. Active WIE members have increased from 35 in 2016 to the above 260 currently.
She added that there is need for increased career guidance from kindergarten, primary to secondary schools for increased enrolment in the STEM field by girls. She also encouraged the mentoring of Polytechnic and University students for them to complete courses successfully once enrolled and the mentoring of graduates to remain in the STEM field after graduation.
“STEM should focus on a complete package that includes investment in infrastructure instead of just focusing on school fees payment but on full scholarships through to University. There is need to use different types of media to share information on STEM eg social media – whatsapp, etc.”
Gladys Tutisani, the Officer in Charge of Exchange Programmes at the United States Embassy in Zimbabwe said her organization sponsors girls and women to spend five weeks in Silicon Valley where they will be doing ICTs. She also promised women engineers funding to attend the International Federation of Engineers.
“The US Embassy greatly supports women is STEM. This year we are going to send 15 girls to a Tech Camp in Namibia,” Tutisani added.