Why the GEM Project?
While in basic school, I had few females in my class who were getting very good grades in Science and Mathematics. Again, while transitioning into Senior High School (SHS), I noticed few ladies in my class who decided not to pursue science in SHS. The story was not different when I graduated into the Senior High School. In a class of 42 students, there were 8 female students and finally in the university, the story was still the same. All these observations troubled my mind and left me thinking on why this was happening and how I could in my own way find a solution to this challenge in my society. In my quest to find out why this was happening, I noticed that girls in their formative years in basic school develop some fear toward Science and Mathematics and this invariably affected their choice of program when making a transition in Senior High School and the university respectively. After reaching this valuable conclusion, I decided to start the Girls Engaging Mentors (GEM) project to mentor girls while driving away the fear and exposing them to the diverse careers in STEM and the opportunities thereafter.
The GEM project
A careful observation of the STEM industry both in and out of the country revealed a low ratio of female participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Despite, tremendous efforts by governments, corporate organizations (Vodafone, Airtel) and individual groups to enhance and create the awareness for more female participation in STEM, there is still a marginalization in the awareness creation campaign. There are many promising young girls in the Volta region who have not benefited from the numerous STEM programs and projects targeted towards increasing female participation and involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Drinking from the same well of increasing female involvement and participation in STEM, a group of students from the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) led by myself (a third year biomedical laboratory science student) organized the Girls Engaging Mentors (GEM) project in Freetown Basic School in the Ho municipality of the Volta region to mentor 27 girls in STEM careers, the need to #Evolve with STEM and to see the subjects; Science and Mathematics as easy subjects.
“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED IS THAT A SCIENTIST CAN LOOK JUST LIKE ME” – Mykel Sisk a #NEXTGENEGIRL
The project was heralded by series of events such as the speed mentoring session, Q&A session and fun activities. During the speed mentoring session, each student mentor spoke to the participants on their career path, their past experiences while studying science in the Senior High School, their motivation to continue with careers in STEM and the role they find themselves playing to increase female participation in STEM. After this session and the several questions triggered by the presentation of the student mentors, the participants were eager to find answers to their questions and that drove us into the Q&A session. Questions like “How can I become a scientist?”, “Can I read science and become a soldier?” and many more questions were asked by the participants. The student mentors took time to give these young girls answers to their admiration and their applause.
Soon after the Q&A session, the students had a fun activity which tested their knowledge on the number of scientists they know and how many of them were females. To our utmost dismay, they mentioned the names of the female student mentors who came to mentor them.
After the project we had some students who came to us asking of how they could pursue careers in STEM in the future and after interacting with them and coaching them, we had 15 girls out of the 27 girls who were fully convinced of their willingness to choose and pursue science in the Senior High School.
The project ended successfully with recommendations from the headmaster and the class teacher of the final year class. In all the girls loved the project. The way forward, we hope that the Girls Engaging Mentors Project becomes the voice for enhancing female participation in STEM in the Volta region of Ghana.