Girls Count Competition: Martha Polla – “Introduce STEM potential early”

Martha Polla – Namiba
“Introduce STEM potential early and nurture girls to grow into these careers”

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is a central pillar for industrialization and technological advancement. From an early age I have pondered on why is there a very low representation of females in these fields compared to the higher ratio of females to males in Africa. In order to accelerate Africa’s development, it is imperative that women take up their rightful responsibility and role in contributing to this advancement through being availed opportunities to join STEM careers.

Through my experience, I have realised that Africa has very few platforms and organisations promoting women in STEM, especially Southern Africa. Most prominent platforms such as Next Einstein Scientific Research Platform target women already pursuing a path in STEM fields. What about the very young generation that is not yet aware of the available career options? The young generation tend to pursue careers that are reflected among the people in their communities and society at large. This is because they believe that those are the only options within their reach. Therefore, my idea on how to make girls count is by reaching out to the less fortunate and help them see that STEM fields are available to them too.

African towns and cities are composed of informal settlements with people that have lost hope on ever achieving the same thing that the kid on other side of town can achieve. Girls from these areas don’t believe they can ever be engineers, scientists or mathematicians because women around them always end up as bar tenders, hair dressers or selling at the open markets. There are untapped talents among each and every one of those girls and it is our duty to release that potential. These girls need someone to believe in them and show them that no matter their circumstances it is possible.

The scope of my idea:

  • Approach young girls in primary and high school, especially those in disadvantaged areas.
  • Educate them about STEM careers
  • Pick those interested in these fields, mentor them, and assist them in applying to universities and scholarships.
  • Help tutor them in science related subjects and provide them with essential books.

I have already embarked on this journey, where I visit disadvantaged towns sharing my experiences, challenges and empowering young women with information about opportunities. As a female Transportation Engineer in a male dominated field, I am motivated to share my challenges, breakthroughs and inspire young women through my own experiences. On my school visits I always conclude with the following extraordinary remark from The First Lady of Namibia “What defines the New African Woman is her ability to not only survive but also to thrive in a political and social set-up that is not equipped for her to survive and thrive”. It is time for the New African woman.

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