May 31, 2019
Enhancing women participation in the African space industry winning essays
Space In Africa on the 11th of February asked girls and women between the age of 18-35 to write an essay on enhancing women and girls participation in Space.
They received106 entries from 20 African countries and Dr. Anita Antwiwaa emerged the winner from Ghana, Gracious Ernest from Nigeria and Nompumelelo Ursala from South Africa as the Runner Up. Below is Anita, Gracious and Noampulelelo’s essay and recommendations on how to enhance women and girls participation in space, precisely in Africa.
Dr. Anita Antwiwaa – Winning Essay
“Women and Girls who participate in the African Space Science and Technology which remains one of the key disciplines that employs all other technological areas in implementing projects which see through the lens of all human needs and wants, and bringing up solutions which address them by helping to advance the sustainable development goals (SDGs) for societal benefit has been on the lower side over the years. This area has proven to be an essential contributor to achieving the SDGs and African Union Agenda 2063 of which women cannot be excluded.
The world population of women is almost exceeding that of men meaning that, the involvement and contribution of women in all technological areas is needed greatly to help achieve a sustainable development in our world today and beyond. This therefore brings our attention to the fact that, there is a great need to educate African women in the area of practical oriented Space Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation [SPACE-STEMI] so to contribute massively in attaining a sustainable wide scope of addressing human needs through Space Science and Technology in Africa.
Over the years, records have shown that few African girls remain in the area of STEMI education after primary school. Less percentage of these girls get the opportunity to continue in the STEMI fields after secondary school, leaving very few women to advance in STEMI careers. This results in having a small number of women in the area of “Space”. African women somewhat don’t gladly embrace space science due to the African cultural perspective of classifying a woman as weak and vulnerable, and are therefore restricted from getting involved in adventurous activities that can broaden their scope of exploration and to take up a careers in this area.
Secondly, most young girls seem to lose self-confidence in practical oriented STEMI fields, and this is because they see their male counterparts as having intelligence, strength and courage to venture these areas. If girls would be given the right mentorship at younger age, their confidence will be boosted and will help them choose a career in such disciplines and thereby erasing the primitive ideology that “Space Science & Technology” is not a venture for women.
Moreover, there are fewer women who have achieved successful careers in “space” in Africa for the younger girls to model after. Since space science & technology is an emerging field in the African continent, most of these young girls find themselves in an environment where most women are successful and doing well in other careers other than “Space”.
Lastly, the space industry in Africa is still in its infant stage and has lesser job prospects on the African continent. Most African countries are not actively into this area therefore there is less motivation of choosing a career which has uncertainty of job security afterwards. All these hinders the participation of more women in Space.
It is very difficult to excite the interest of a millennial to take up a career in Space Technology when the subject matter is studied theoretically in most African countries. One of the ways to solve this problem require the use practical tools such as miniaturized satellites like CANSAT as a model to teach space technology in all educational levels because it is easier to build and less costly. Girls in lower grades can be empowered to choose a career in “Space” by exposing them to CANSAT activities to boost their interest in choosing a career in Space Technology.
Secondly, there is the need for the women who are already in “Space” to get involve in mentoring the young girls so as to generate their interest in taking up a future career in this area.
Furthermore, the space institutions can get involved by organizing space science and technology competitions, conferences and seminars for primary and high school girls, so as to create awareness and to sprout their interest in choosing a career in Space and its related applications. Scholarships should also be made available for girls who wants to choose a career in this field.
Finally, the space institutions and industries should come up with policies that will give talented young women who complete their university education with space related degrees the advantage over their male counterparts in securing Jobs in this fields. This will help to increase the participation of more women in Space and its related activities in Africa.”
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