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Inspiring Future Superstars: WAAW Fourah Bay’s STEM/Science Outreach for African Girls
WAAW Foundation is a U.S.-based non-profit organization dedicated to empowering girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. As part of their mission to close the gender gap and encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers, the Fourah Bay STEM chapter recently conducted a science outreach event at a local secondary school. This hands-on STEM workshop gave students, particularly girls, valuable exposure to science experiments and principles. Events like these are central to WAAW’s efforts to get young women excited about STEM subjects and careers. As this blog will show, WAAW’s outreach has a tremendously positive impact on students. Their work is inspiring the next generation of female leaders in STEM and making strides towards gender equality in Africa.
What is a STEM, or Science Outreach Program?
A STEM outreach program is an activity that aims to promote interest, engagement, and participation in STEM fields among students and the community through various activities, workshops, and events. Such programs often strive to make STEM subjects more interesting, accessible, and fostering a love for learning and potentially inspiring future careers in these disciplines.
WAAW Fourah Bay Outreach Event Details
On December 3rd, 2023, the WAAW Fourah Bay STEM chapter conducted a science outreach event at the Freetown Secondary School for Girls (FSSG), Hannah Benka-Coker, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over 50 students participated in the day’s activities, which were focused on getting young students excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
The outreach began with an introductory presentation by WAAW members about the various opportunities in STEM, from aerospace engineering to zoology. Students had the opportunity to ask questions about what motivated the WAAW volunteers’ interest in STEM and what their day-to-day work entails.
After the introductory session, the students had another session on an interesting science topic: heat. Students learned the definition, application, and calculations under the topic. To enhance the teaching, the conductor went further to perform a hands-on experiment on heat using balloons, water, candles, and match sticks. At the end of the outreach, the volunteers established a group with the students to continue keeping in touch with. The students were excited about future STEM learning and career opportunities.
Despite making up over half the population, women are vastly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math careers. This is especially pronounced in Africa, where outdated gender norms and traditions often discourage girls from pursuing studies in these critical fields.
WAAW aims to break down these barriers by providing mentoring programs, scholarships, and STEM summits that give African girls access to STEM education opportunities. By getting them excited about science and technology at a young age, WAAW hopes to inspire the next generation of innovators, engineers, and pioneers. Their chapters and programs create a supportive community where girls can gain confidence in their abilities and realize their potential.
While progress has been made over time, women currently make up 47% of the science and engineering workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa. We believe that increasing access to STEM fields is key to gender equity and sustainable development across Africa. We are working to create a pipeline of talented young women who will become Africa’s future leaders in research, technology, and industry. With more role models and support, WAAW is determined to close the gender gap and usher in a new era of African innovation.
Get Involved and Support STEM Education
WAAW’s STEM Chapter in Fourah Bay relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers to continue their impactful STEM outreach programs. If you were inspired by the work they are doing, here are some ways you can get involved:
- Volunteer as a Mentor: WAAW partners with schools to match students with mentors in STEM fields. As a mentor, you can provide guidance, encouragement, and inspiration to young students, especially girls, who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Even a few hours a month can make a big difference in influencing these students’ futures.
- Donate: Even small donations can add up to fund scholarships, purchase lab equipment, and support the operational needs that allow WAAW STEM chapters to continue their outreach programs. Recurring monthly donations provide consistent support that helps them plan for the future. All donations are tax-deductible.
The WAAW Fourah Bay STEM chapter’s outreach event demonstrates the tremendous impact organizations like WAAW can have on students, especially girls, in disadvantaged communities. By bringing hands-on STEM workshops and mentors directly to schools, WAAW provides exposure, resources, and inspiration that these students may not otherwise receive. The smiles, energy, and engagement witnessed at the outreach event reveal the true potential of STEM to captivate imaginations when made accessible.