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Women carve niche in STEM careers

by Sunday Express
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Mimi Machakaire

WOMEN are underrepresented in the field of science and technology in Lesotho and the world over. Women account for less than 30 % of all researchers in the world and where one in nine men graduate in the fields of science, the number for women is only one in 14.

Recent research by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also shows that only 28% of researchers employed globally are women, while in Sub-Saharan Africa women in research and development stood at 30% in 2013.

Four Basotho women are on a mission to challenge the gender disparities by venturing into the field of science and technology. The Sunday Express recently spoke to them and below are biographies of the quartet.

Tšoanelo Ramorakane is a 27 year old volunteer at the Gender Entrepreneurship and Media institute in partnership with UNESCO called SheHacks. She is involved in a programme that brings information technology (IT) skills to children in Lesotho with a strong focus on young girls.

Mr Ramorakane believes that women face challenges in getting recognition from individuals and local companies for their IT skills and capacity to create IT solutions.

This therefore reduces their chances of getting jobs in the sector and preference is given to male counterparts.

The marginalisation of women in the sector can also lead to lack of self- confidence, fear of failure and the fear of innovating and establishing female-led technology companies.

To overcome this, the SheHacks team, which comprises solely of females in the technology field, encourages members to be innovative and create technology solutions without fear of failure. Currently all SheHacks members are volunteers but they hope to start companies and schools that will bring technology solutions not only to females but all Basotho in general.

“It’s important for young girls to learn how to code (computer programming) so they can learn how to use modern technology to gain financial freedom,” Ms Ramorakane said.

“It’s also important to make them creators of modern technology so they can take part in creating products/services and content that solve issues women face daily. It’s also important for them to learn all the interesting ways they can express themselves and their interests using technology,” she added.

Mats’eliso Moruthane is a 24 year old computer scientist who works at The Hub, a non-profit organisation in Morija.

She teaches the local community computer skills with the aim of closing the digital divide in the country. Most of these focus on children’s coding skills. She uses the lessons to encourage children to enrol in STEM subjects.

“I am also an Africa Code Week software trainer in Lesotho. Africa Code Week is an initiative which aims to empower African youths with the coding skills they need to thrive in the 21st century workforce and become key actors of Africa’s economic development,” Ms Moruthane said.

Maneo Mapharisa is a 28 year old Gender Entrepreneurship and Media Institute (GEM) trainer. She chose STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects because she believes that all young people should be prepared to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing Lesotho.

“I’m an Africa Code Week trainer and we go each week to schools in Lesotho to teach them Scratch. Scratch is a computer programming application that allows an individual to tell the computer what to do. For example the computer can be told to create animations or games,” Ms Mapharisa said.


“In my spare time I visit local schools and teach students about computer programing and other STEM subjects. This is to ensure that the next generation will possess the relevant skills for different sectors,” Ms Mapharisa said.


Mamolapi Serutla is a 26 year old GEM trainer. She has always been good with numbers, so she decided to go for something that has to do with numbers. With help from her brother she chose a career in science.

At one time when she was a first year student, a male student sought to discourage her from studying sciences, saying this was a male preserve.

This upset her but also gave her an insight into the prejudice against women which she then resolved to address.

She is currently an Africa code week trainer, where she is one of the teachers who help children understand the basics of computer programing. Primary students are taught Scratch but high school students are more involved in STEM subjects. Currently, she is assisting Taray High School by motivating students to be more involved in STEM subjects.

“My advice to children is that they should never be afraid, you can do anything you set your mind to. Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.

“I want my students to be comfortable with computer programing so that they can create their own applications because it is true that we are moving to digital, technological solutions from analogue. Therefore it is important for children to learn how to code (computer programing) to make them more marketable to employers globally. This is because coding is applicable to every industry,” Ms Serutla said.



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