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Call to address gender disparities

 

Mimi Machakaire

THERE is need to take vigorous measures to address the under-representation of women in science, skills and professions in order to achieve sustainable development in all countries.

This was said at the intergenerational panel dialogue which was held recently in Maseru. The dialogue was organised by the National Commission for UNESCO and it was attended by an all-female panel of people in the science and technology sector.

The discussion was held in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child which is celebrated annually in different countries on 11 October to highlight issues of gender inequality which affect girls.

One of the panellists, Mpho Letima, a Programme Development Officer at the National Commission for UNESCO, said that women and girls needed to be empowered to contribute to sustainable development initiatives, including in the science and technology sector.

“Today we are celebrating the girl child. The girl child needs a voice, needs to be empowered and included especially within science and technology,” Ms Letima said.

“While efforts have been made to close the gender gap, it remains wide across the globe. For example 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 done by UNESCO also shows that only 28% of researchers employed globally are women, while in Sub Saharan Africa women in research and development in 2013 stood at 30%.

“Gender disparities between women scientists and men are evident in places of work and decision-making processes where women scientists are mainly employed in academic and government institutions where they occupy positions with limited leadership opportunities while their male counterparts in the private sector occupy high paying leadership positions.

“This under-representation of women in science, skills and professions has been a long standing global human resource challenge with profound implications for the sustainable development of nations. We need to speak out and make sure that science and technology becomes relevant in our everyday lives.”

Matšepo Mosoka, a senior research officer in the department of science and technology, said that women were less likely to be hired for employment in the science and the technology sector because of perceptions that they were weaker than men.

“There’s nothing difficult about information technology or engineering and though women may come up with ideas, those ideas might not be considered because women are viewed as inferior to men.

“When things don’t go well in the workplace, people often blame women because they think girls don’t understand complicated matters.

“The majority of the population thinks that the girl child is weaker than the boy and should therefore study subjects like biology which is considered a ‘soft science’. It is this kind of mentality that we need to eradicate in society,” Ms Mosoka said.

The dialogue discussed issues based on Aspiration 1 of the Africa 2063 Agenda which is on Governance, Education, Sustainable Development Goals and Economic Empowerment.

Agenda 2063 is Africa’s roadmap to sustainable development and well-being for citizens in all countries.

Aspiration 1 of the agenda envisions a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development focusing on producing well educated citizens and a skills revolution underpinned by science, technology and innovation.

In an effort to promote women and girls’ participation in science and leadership, various initiatives have been made in Africa, including the declaration of 2015 as the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa Agenda 2063”.

There was also the adoption of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 and several countries have come up strategies to mainstream gender in science and technology.

 

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