The president and founder of the Working to Advance STEM Education for African Women (WAAW) foundation, Dr. Unoma Ndili Okorafor participated in a 2-day “Women’s Forum” in Mauritius. The theme of the Forum is: “Meeting the Climate Challenge for Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and Africa.” Participants debated on climate and health solutions; climate, agriculture, and biodiversity best practices; sustainable energy and water and sanitation for Africa and Small Island Developing States (SIDS); advancing innovation in agriculture, health and land use; improving the participation of women and youth in scientific and technological training; and processes for frugal green innovations with value-added for SIDS and African economies.
Dr. Unoma Okorafor spoke on the importance of Mentorship as more African women are moving into leadership and growth and also, emphasized on ways to improve participation of women and youth in scientific and technological training. “We need more women in STEM in order to tap into creativity and solve African problems by engaging girls at an early age in hands-on STEM activities, training more STEM teacher and tapping into University students and a non-traditional source of STEM trainers for secondary school girls.”
“African women must break rules in order to change the current state of things. African women need to seize the African agenda. We must work together against organizational and systematic challenges that hinder STEM education in Africa such as rote memorization. We must embrace localization of materials and curriculum, using what we have to solve the issues we face.”
“Engaging women in technology is crucial for sustainable development in Africa,” she added.
The Women’s Forum Mauritius 2016 was being held for the first time in the African region, more particularly, in a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). Its main objective was to underscore the preparedness of Mauritius, the SIDS and the African countries in addressing the challenges and implications of climate change. The president of Mauritius, Gurib-Farkim, was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Women Forum. In her opening remarks, she observed that women are those who are and will be more affected by the impacts of climate change since they are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are now presently under threat. The forum took up the innovation challenge for island states and Africa. It also showcased Mauritius’s remarkably rich natural flora and fauna, while underlying why it is a global biodiversity hot spot.
According to Dr. Unoma, during her interview on improving women’s advancement in Small Island Developing Countries like Mauritius and Africa, she mentioned that SIDS in Africa need funding allocation and technical assistance expertise to promote women owned businesses, entrepreneurship, innovation programs, digital literacy, and leadership training for women. Also, they need robust international policies and strategies that address the cause of pollution and amplify the impact of global warming and climate change on the livelihoods and quality of living for women in Small Island Developing Countries and Africa.
“Recognizing that no one can achieve greatness alone, Women in particular benefit significantly from mentorship and having advocates as they aspire to advance into leadership. I advocate that women become intentional about getting involved with inspiring communities because the easiest way to be successful is to hang around people who are successful. Also, grab leadership opportunities whenever they come. Never turn down an opportunity to stand out, or lead even when feeling inadequate. Engage with a mission that is bigger than yourself and attempt things beyond your perceived capability so that you can stretch yourself. Finally, recognize that failure is part of success and embracing it as an important step to learning valuable lessons.” Dr. Unoma Okorafor advised aspiring women leaders to invest in Mentorship and Leadership opportunities.