Wednesday, November 30, 2022
The University of Nairobi under the Faculty of Engineering has launched the SISTARS-Transforming Institutions to Advance Women Leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and the inception workshop. The trans-disciplinary collaborative action research project in Ghana and Kenya is funded by the International Development Research Centre IDRC and seeks to promote women leaders in STEM institutions through understanding the nuances that inhibit their progress to leadership positions and co-designing and testing solutions with selected case study institutions.
The expertise is drawn from interdisciplinary female and male researchers from west and east Africa comprising Academia (Environmental Science, Engineering, Social Science), Industry, NGOs with skills in gender analysis, organizational development, trans-disciplinary approaches, STEM Mentorship
While delivering her keynote address during the launch ceremony, CS Hon. Alice Wahome represented by the Director of Transboundary Waters, Ms. Gladys Wekesa said, “ In a report by the World Bank, titled ‘Women in Water Utilities: Breaking Barriers,’ found that women represent less than 18% of the workforce.”
“To bring this home, there are only 2 female CEOs in all 18 water sector institutions in my ministry, less than 5 female Managing Directors in water utilities and only 7% of the total registered engineer in Kenya are women,” she demonstrated.
Additionally, she deduced that the lack of women in senior management and leadership positions prevents other women including female students, from having role models and career aspirations.
In emphasis, the UoN Vice Chancellor Prof. Stephen Kiama represented by Prof. Wanjiku Kabira in his remarks echoed, “It is very unfortunate that despite Kenya’s significant progress in achieving gender parity in education, women remain significantly underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).”
“Limitations on access to quality education, cultural norms, and gender prejudices influence opportunities and choices, thereby reducing the number of women who enroll, those who complete studies and get employed in the STEM fields of expertise,” he emphasized.
Prof. Ayub Gitau, Dean Faculty of Engineering, brought to remembrance a vital aspect of achieving equality in society. “As we champion for the girls to have equal opportunities in STEM courses as well as industries, it will be complacent of us to forget the boys who consequently will be the heads of homes.”
“There are no dropouts from the girls’ side, yet a vast number is witnessed from their male counterparts, “he demonstrated.
UoN is committed to attaining gender parity as espoused in the University of Nairobi Gender Mainstreaming Policy. However, the progress toward achieving gender parity has been slow with less than 25% of senior academic staff across the university being women
The SISTARS initiative is among the many strategies that UoN intends to employ to increase the enrolment of Women in STEM at the University of Nairobi. The University of Nairobi was recently selected to be a member of the AFRITEC Program, a program of the Carnegie Mellon Foundation whose objective is to build capacity and promote inclusion in Africa through Science and Technology.
African Population and Health Research Centre was represented by Prof. Blessing Mberu from Nigeria, who stressed the importance of Africa filling its gender gap and eradicating gender inequality in order for the continent to enjoy SDG5.
The project leadership consists of Dr. Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah of the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies, the University of Ghana as the Principal Investigator, and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Faith Njoki Karanja of the Department of Geospatial and Space Technology, the University of Nairobi as the Co-Principal Investigator. The other units from Ghana include the Institute for Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER), the Department of Geography and Resource Management, and the School of Engineering Sciences. From Kenya, the partner institutions include African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) and the Women in Water and Sanitation (WIWAS).
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