Despite significant contributions that women have made to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), women still lag behind men globally in terms of their representation and participation in these male-dominated fields.
In Fiji, from a young age, girls are still stereotypically perceived to be more inclined to less technical subjects to fulfill more traditional roles even after the completion of a university degree. Around the world, girls grow up thinking they are not that good in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics despite studies that show that girls and boys perform similarly in these subjects.
Realising that girls need stronger, positive STEM role models and to increase their participation in STEM studies, Graduate Women Fiji (GWF) teamed up with the Fiji Women’s Fund to host Fiji’s first STEM Camp for girls in April this year. GWF is a voluntary, non-profit organisation of women graduates working to promote lifelong education, to improve the status of women and girls and to enable women to effect positive change for a peaceful world.
The three-day event gave 30 girls from rural and underprivileged communities in Suva the chance to be part of the camp. New Zealand Scientist and social entrepreneur Dr. Mitchell Dickson who runs Nanogirl, led the camp with a group of trainers. Prior to the week of the STEM Camp, the Nanogirl Labs team facilitated a Train the Trainer program for five women, some of whom were actually Fiji National University Lecturers.
GWF Vice President Maria Ronna Luna Pastorizo-Sekiguchi said GWF believes that empowering girls and women go hand in hand and by doing this, GWF is ensuring the sustainability of the program. She said that the STEM Camp creates a safe, fun and supportive space for the girls to aspire to a future STEM career.
GWF plans to have similar STEM Summer Camps (and possibly Coding Camps as well) in Nadi as well as in other less accessible urban and rural areas in Fiji. GWF hopes to make the program sustainable so that camps can become a regular school break programme for girls.
GWF has put out calls on social media for female students in STEM fields who would like to assist GWF with the STEM camps as student trainers. These trainers would become part of GWF’s “Sisters in STEM”. For more information on how to become a Sister in STEM, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.