To celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child on the 11th October 2017, the Lesotho National Commission for UNESCO hosted an Intergenerational Panel Dialogue of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). A group of young aspiring women leaders in STEM met with already established women in science to talk about difficulties girls and women face on a regular basis when pursuing a career in STEM or related studies.
One of the purposes was to highlight the importance of female voices in the STEM field, since most areas are male-dominated. Science-related topics should become more important in schools, they stressed, teachers should encourage specifically girls to also consider STEM careers. According to the panellists, media needs to play a vital role in discussing gender issues as well as promoting the image of female leaders in STEM. The aim of this dialogue was to challenge existing gender disparities in science, as well as to set an example for young girls that pursuing a career in STEM is possible, despite all difficulties.
Discussed matters were put into practice the following Saturday, the 14th October, where a group of girls from Methodist High School were trained in Coding at the grounds of Lesotho National Commission for UNESCO. The training was a success in every aspect: all of the thirty girls gained an insight into the world of coding and computer science and were empowered to further pursue their interest in science.
The dialogue and the coding workshop can be seen as an opening event to the Africa Code Week, which started the week after the International Day of the Girl Child. Africa Code Week is an annual event held in more than 35 countries in Africa, teaching young Africans the language of coding. This year, focus lay on disadvantaged individuals such as children in rural areas, girls and women. Bearing this in mind, coding workshops took place in different schools throughout the country.
The National Commission for UNESCO hopes to inspire every girl to become a role model for other girls and that this dialogue was a starting point for future discussions about the leading role Basotho women can, must and inevitably will play in STEM.