What resources do Rwandan girls and women lack for expanding their STEM Leadership? By reading this blog, you will be able to know why there are fewer girls than boys in STEM fields in Rwanda. Please feel free to comment and suggest what you think we can do to increase the number of girls and women in STEM education and professions.
I am a young devoted Rwandan who wishes to improve her leadership in STEM. After being selected in the 1000 Girls 1000 Futures mentoring program, I was very excited and I wanted to learn many things in addition to sharing ideas with those in STEM careers. I liked the program because I was able to interact with many people from different nations who share common interests and issues, such as increasing the representation of women in STEM fields. As the future STEM leaders, we should solve that problem by contributing our ideas, skills, and efforts to the world starting from our countries, our families, and the societies in which we live.
In order to answer the question of why Rwandan girls and women are underrepresented in STEM fields, I turned to recent research on the topic performed by the American Association for University Women “Why so few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” in which the authors share recommendations to solve this issue. (Hill, 2015)
My country has taken measures for early gender inequality, which caused large negative impacts on women’s rights. Now, women have rights to education, leadership, justice, and peace. Today, girls have equal rights as boys. Since we have freedom to equal access on everything like our brothers, we should take advantage of our opportunities and gain from them. But because women are still few in STEM fields, we still need to find solutions to the following issues observed in my country.
Deficiency of educational opportunities: Some girls still lack education opportunities compared to boys; often they do not perform as well as boys do due to less support from their families and relatives. This leads to discouragement, and girls usually drop out of school when they reach the middle of their post-secondary degree. This problem can be solved by encouraging Rwandan women who have interest in STEM careers through providing mentorship programs, providing resources and support which will help them study and excel in their chosen careers, and sharing experience with them through different workshops and internships by women leaders in their fields.
Communication and public speaking skills: Many Rwandan girls are afraid of speaking in public; not that they have no valuable contributions to make, but because they are afraid of people’s reactions to their ideas. One way to remove those fears is to create programs that train girls in building self-confidence, critical thinking, and public speaking skills and linking them with good communicators who can teach and serve as their role models.
Shortage of women STEM role models: When you have role models, your confidence and influence increase. There is a shortage of female STEM Leaders in Rwanda, and many women’s contributions go unrecognized. In order to solve this issue, I may suggest that STEM leaders, specifically Rwandans or Africans, help the young devoted STEM leaders to develop.
Before ending this post, I would like to share one of the female Rwandan STEM leader with you.
Esther MBABAZI is the first Rwandan female to fly a commercial airplane. She wants women to realize that they can do anything. She said “Time has changed. Women are out there working, technology has changed, and everyone has the brains to do something, now it’s not about how much bicep or how much energy you have.” After achieving her lifelong ambition of being up in the clouds, she wouldn’t change a single thing about her path. “If you’re in a field that you are really, you have passion for it. You can’t wait for what tomorrow is going to bring for you, for me, that’s my biggest achievement – to be in a place whereby I am happy.” “You can’t live life being scared. Something is bound to happen, you can’t stop it.” (Marc & Lauren, 17,06,2014)
Despite the different challenges she met, she wouldn’t give up on her dreams. She worked hard to achieve her goals.
Written by: Annette Tumukunde, 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures Mentee
Hill, c. (2015). Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington: American Association for University Women.
Marc, H., & Lauren, S.-M. (17,06,2014). Rwanda’s first female pilot takes to the skies. CNN .