IICBA Co-organizes a “Women in Science and gender-responsive STEAM education” Seminar

On 17 December 2018, UNESCO-IICBA in partnership with the Next Einstein Forum (NEF), Jinka University and Ethiopian Young Academy of Sciences (EtYAS) organized a seminar on “Women in Science and gender-responsive STEAM education” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to celebrate Africa Science Week, which ran in Ethiopia from 17 – 20 December 2018. UNESCO-IICBA’s staff member, Dr. Binyam Sisay Mendisu, Program Officer for teacher education and curriculum development, is currently serving as a NEF Ambassador for Ethiopia for 2017-2019. More than 20 researchers, practitioners, teachers and teacher educators from Zambia, Uganda and Kenya were in attendance. The seminar focused on women in science, gender-responsive STEAM education and the special contributions of teachers and mentors in supporting and inspiring girls to pursue careers in various scientific and technological fields.

There were a total of six presentations that covered good practices in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education, promoted role models and initiatives that recognize their importance, and discussed ways forward to achieve a leveled playing field for girls and women in STEAM areas. Three of the presentations came from Ethiopians, while two presenters came from Zambia and Uganda, and one was given by IICBA.

In the evening, a science and technology cocktail and networking event was held where Ethiopia’s foremost female scientists came together for a panel discussion and young female coders and developers presented their latest projects. In attendance were Dr. Elizabeth Woldegiorgis, Dr. Helen Yifter, Dr. Teqarm Debebe and Dr. Yimtubezinash Woldeamanuel. Students from two secondary schools in Addis Ababa, Bole Preparatory School and Wondiyrad Secondary School were also invited. Amongst the young female minds were Masresha Beniam from OmniCoders, an after school program for girls and Betty Dessie, from iCogs Labs and founder of Anyone Can Code and Solve IT Program. Betty spoke to the crowd and explained that she had started coding when she was only nine years old. She said after she did, she became more confident and independent. She explained that,

    “As a girl, being able to cover your own expenses, having your freedom, having to do whatever you think is best for you and learning from your mistakes in whatever way you see fit is very important, and that’s how tech has changed my life.”

As part of the program a two-day visit was planned to Jinka, Ethiopia, in the southwestern part of the country, for a panel discussion with students of Jinka University and a science demonstration for high school students from three schools. A visit to a local high school was also organized.

The panel discussion addressed how to promote women in science with Dr. Adey Feleke of Addis Ababa University and EtYAS, Dr. Andebet Gedamu from EtYAS and Kotebe Metropolitan University and Dr. Moges Yigezu from Addis Ababa University as discussants and Dr. Binyam as the facilitator. The discussion highlighted the important role of women in science and the need to create better spaces for the promotion and engagement of women in science.
At the high school, the director of the school introduced science and tech facilities, such as ICT rooms, laboratory and library, to NEF ambassadors and young academics, while demonstrating both progress and challenges in the promotion of STEAM education to high school students.

To further inspire future Einsteins, Dr. Adey and Dr. Andebet facilitated a hands-on workshop for the students. Dr. Andebet acknowledged that for communities like Jinka access to STEM apparatuses can be challenging. Therefore, he showed them how to create science apparatuses using locally accessible everyday materials, like plastic bottles, wood, straws, etc. This spurred the minds of the students to begin to see everyday materials around them as potential instruments to solve problems.

Dr. Adey explained the process of pigmentation, the role of chlorophyll in aiding photosynthesis plants and the separation of chlorophyll in plants using acetone solution to extract the chlorophyll A and B. She also explained the reaction of eggs in vinegar and the removal of the egg membrane.

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