Blog by Tom Carrol, Misean Cara (member of the IFGE)
As we marked the 9th International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th, it’s essential to reflect on why this day is crucial. Established by the United Nations, this day highlights the significant role women and girls play in science and technology. The theme of this year’s event is: Women and Girls in Science Leadership – a New Era for Sustainability.
The statistics are still sobering: according to UNESCO data, less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women, and only around 30% of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. These figures underscore the need for more inclusive policies and practices.
Misean Cara supports missionaries working worldwide to empower those left furthest behind. Misean Cara through its membership, is dedicated to global education and STEM. We firmly believe in the empowerment of women and girls. In 2023, a total of almost €4.8m was allocated to 95 education projects implemented by 39 members in 30 countries.
We see this day not just as a celebration but also as a call to action. It’s a reminder of the journey towards gender equality in the scientific field and the barriers yet to be overcome. We’ve seen firsthand how empowering women and girls in STEM leads to innovation, diverse perspectives, and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
For example, in 2009, Ethiopia had less than three doctors for every 100,000 people. Less than 20% of practicing doctors in Ethiopia are female. The Ethiopian Catholic University (ECU) with support from Misean Cara member De La Salle are working to strengthen the national healthcare system while empowering talented young women to pursue careers in medicine through its rural student scholarship program, with a special focus on female students. Remarkably, 129 of ECU’s 183 medical students are female.
In South Sudan, the newest country in the world, has some of the worst educational indicators, with education for girls being particularly poor. Girls are more likely to die in childbirth than to complete second level education and 53% of girls are married before their 18th birthday. Misean Cara member, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary run the Loreto Girls Secondary School in Rumbek which promotes access to education for young South Sudanese girls. The school has increased the uptake of STEM subjects and agriculture among female students including active participation in club activities.
In the Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Misean Cara member the Salvatorians run a school with kindergarten, primary and secondary sections. Of the 500 students in secondary, 50% are girls. The subjects taught include electricity, industrial electronics and business management. The girls are performing particularly well. Frere Basile – Director in Congo – says: “What impresses us is that currently, the girls are very interested in technique, and have good performance in the most complex subjects (mathematics, physics and technical courses).”
In Chennai India, the Salesian Sisters have undertaken the mission of enhancing STEM learning outcomes for underprivileged students and promoting gender equality. The programme persuaded girls to prepare themselves for the future as creators and not remain as just consumers of technology.
Our commitment at Misean Cara is unwavering. We invest in STEM education for girls, provide support for girl’s education, and celebrate female role models in science. We’ve witnessed the transformation that occurs when girls are given the tools and opportunities to pursue their interests in science. Their success stories are not just personal achievements but steps towards a more equitable and sustainable future.
In a world grappling with climate change, health crises, and technological transformations, we cannot afford to sideline half of our potential talent. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science serves as a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done. It’s a day to renew our commitment to breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and pushing for policies that promote gender equality in science and technology.
As we move forward, let’s continue to champion the cause of women and girls in science. Their voices and contributions are not just beneficial but essential for the advancement of science and the betterment of our global community. Today, we celebrate their achievements and recommit to ensuring a future where every girl and woman can fulfil her scientific potential.
Misean Cara with our 77 members and other members of the Irish Forum for Global Education stand committed to this cause, and we invite you to join us in this vital mission. Let’s make every day a day to empower women and girls in science.
Misean Cara gratefully acknowledges the ongoing funding support of its primary donor, Irish Aid.
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