On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the African Development Bank calls on African countries to make science, technology and innovation (STI) policies inclusive and to place women and girls at the centre of STI programmes.
Celebrated each year on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. The day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.
“Africa cannot talk about innovations without investing in its human capital. Support and mentorship are essential to increasing the participation of youth and women in science and technology,” said Oley Dibba-Wadda, Director of Human Capital Youth and Skills Development at the African Development Bank.
“Decision-makers must prioritize the inclusion of youth and women in science and technology. African entrepreneurs and innovators must also be equipped with the right skills to succeed in a rapidly changing workforce.”
Through its numerous interventions in this area, the African Development Bank is pointing the way to how women and girls can be supported to make a difference in science and innovation.
According to María-José Moreno, Chief Gender Officer at the African Development Bank, “In its operations supporting science, technology and innovation in Africa, the Bank has set indicators reducing gender gaps amongst students, and amongst teachers.”
A society needs the talent of all its citizens, men and women, and cannot thrive when half of the population does not develop its potential, she said.
The African Development Bank uses a multi-pronged approach to support girl’s education especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Between 2005-2017, the Bank approved US $2 billion to support more than 70 education projects for Africa. US $ 52 million in support to technical vocational education, training, and teacher education in Tanzania is helping reduce gender imbalance in science and technology related programs where female participation was only 11-19%.
10,800 students, 50% of them female, have benefited from the program.
Through the bank’s support of the Network of African Institutions of Science and Technology (SNAIST) Project, the 510 students graduated from Master’s and Ph.D programmes, with 48.9 % being female. The project awarded 48 scholarships to students, including young women.
The goal of the African Development Bank project is to contribute to the building of high-skilled human capital, especially in science and technology for the technological advancement of the African continent.
Mpho Phalwane, studying for her M.Phil. in Sustainable Mineral Development, is one of the students supported under this project and is researching the rehabilitation of abandoned asbestos mines in South Africa.
Speaking of her experience, she says, “I believe that mining is a good vehicle for development in Africa, and I am excited about our role in ensuring it is of a sustainable kind. The important work of moving forward does not wait to be done by perfect men. In that spirit, we should then not be afraid to keep trying.”
“Creating more equitable and inclusive societies requires that women and men are distributed across the different professions, including science, technology and innovation. This will foster social progress, cohesion and make societies and economies more resilient,” said Vanessa Moungar, Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society at the African Development Bank.