African women are boldly taking their rightful place in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the support of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), as the world marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science today.
Voltic (GH) Limited has partnered with the Girls Excellence Movement (GEM) to increase impact in the lives of women and children in communities where it operates.
Under the partnership, GEM and Voltic organised their first Inspiration-On-Wheels outreach to Comboni Technical Vocational Institute (COMBOTECH) at Sogakope in the Volta Region. Discussions during the session covered various topics including: menstrual health and their rights online; STEM subjects and careers; sexual assault awareness; and how to effectively engage with the team of mentors. The girls were also given free sanitary pads and mathematics sets.
Citing a World Bank report, CCBA emphasised that individuals with advanced skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are crucial to push new frontiers as well as tackle urgent challenges; however, the potential of women has been consistently under-harnessed in this regard.
CCBA’s Managing Director of Voltic (GH) Ltd., Flora Jika, said the organisation is committed to playing its part in promoting women’s advancement in the sciences.
“Because women are integral to our continent’s shared success, we seek to empower women and girls throughout our markets on the continent.
“Our aim is to create greater shared opportunity for the business and also communities we serve across the value-chain. Opportunity is more than just money, it’s about a better future for people and their communities everywhere on the African continent,” Jika said.
She added that CCBA understands the importance of removing the barriers hindering women from venturing into the sciences, and is committed to doing so because it is an essential step toward closing the gender gap and giving women an equal chance at succeeding in STEM.
According to a World Bank report, in an age of increasing digitalisation, climate change concerns and health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical importance of scientific and technological capacity is more evident now than ever.
Research has shown several factors contributing to the underrepresentation of women in STEM – negative stereotypes about girls’ and women’s capability in STEM fields; discrimination against women in the classroom and workplace; and traditional gender roles that place the burden of domestic responsibilities disproportionately on the shoulders of women – leaving them less time to work in labs, attend conferences and build networks.
All these factors are said to be contributing factors to why only 30 percent of science professionals in sub-Saharan Africa are women.
GEM is a team of dynamic Ghanaian, Nigerian, Tanzanian, American and British young professional volunteers who devote their skills, time and other resources to delivering carefully curated capacity building programmes for girls.
GEM’s vision is to inspire, educate, mentor and inform girls to help them become change leaders. It develops girls into excellent, independent, confident, well-informed and fearless women who are able and willing to take on leadership in all spheres of life, particularly careers in the STEM fields.
Voltic has also partnered with the non-profit organisation Girls in Science and Technology (GIST).
GIST’s mission aligns with Voltic’s passion for women and youth empowerment – providing them with the mentorship and coaching needed for a successful and impactful STEM career, and exposing them to opportunities in the STEM industry.
Voltic supports GIST with internship opportunities for female STEM students who fit in the company’s operations. Voltic also partners with GIST to organise empowerment campaign programmes for girls at secondary and tertiary institutions in Ghana.
In 2022, GIST also launched the GIST-UMaT Chapter in Takoradi with support from Voltic. The aim was to promote the participation of young females in STEM to increase their interest in the career opportunities available to them. This chapter seeks to create a community wherein the girls have blueprint role-models to look up to. It will also expose them to internship opportunities that give them the head start they need for a successful STEM career.
Referring to the successes of CCBA’s women empowerment programmes, Jika said: “By investing in women’s economic empowerment, we have created shared value in hopes of a better-shared future – enabling improved livelihoods for women, their families and their communities, while inclusively expanding our business.
“Our aim is to boost income, provide decent earning potential and improve skills and business knowledge for women, resulting in them accessing other opportunities.”