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Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

mobile STEM labsSTEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes train the innovators of tomorrow to cultivate their problem-solving abilities and to be curious about the world around them. In remote villages throughout the continent of Africa, however, students often go through school without access to rigorous STEM training. As a result, many lack the tools to succeed in higher education and in the modern workplace. Mobile STEM labs have now presented a solution to this problem.

STEM on Wheels

Mobile STEM labs travel to schools in custom vehicles that can accommodate up to a full classroom of students. The labs often specialize in topics that under-resourced communities struggle to provide. Some of the most popular topics include electronics, computer skills and even 3-D printing.

The organization STEMpower manufactured its first mobile STEM lab in Ethiopia. The lab’s inaugural visit to a public high school 45 kilometers outside of Addis Ababa. During the visit 14 students participated in a three-hour Arduino microcontroller training session. Meanwhile, 22 others learned coding on laptops provided by STEMpower.

STEMpower reports that the students engaged in the lab programming with enthusiasm and perseverance. In addition, it found that the mobile experience closely mirrors that of stationary STEM centers. As it begins to prepare for expanded coverage and a sustainable future, the organization hopes that the next mobile lab will run on solar power.

More than Microscopes

Many labs also extend their work beyond the classroom. When the Togolese-owned company MOBILELABO travels to under-resourced schools and conducts experiments with the students, for example, it prioritizes community outreach as well. The company hosts science fairs, launches science clubs and sponsors radio/television series dedicated to answering scientific questions.

While the mobile labs themselves eventually move onto other villages, each leaves a lasting influence in its wake. MOBILELABO alone has installed permanent laboratories in 10 schools. Additionally, the organization has sold over 500 science kits demonstrating the basic principles of physics, chemistry and biology. The company also provides rigorous teacher training in each school that it visits.

As of now, MOBILELABO has prompted over half a million disadvantaged students throughout Togo and Benin to pursue the sciences. Founder and director Dodzi Aglago says that his company will continue to work toward its goal of reaching as many communities as possible and establishing permanent laboratories in all African schools.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a temporary halt to STEM lab travel, many lab teams have shifted their focus to designing and distributing medical equipment to local hospitals. They hope to resume full operation in schools as soon as possible.

STEM and Economic Growth

Mobile STEM labs have paved the way for new opportunities across the continent. The African Union (AU) recognizes the importance of STEM education as a means to promote long-term economic growth. According to Aspiration 1 of Agenda 2063, the organization intends to reform classroom curricula as part of its 50-year development plan. These changes will highlight hands-on learning and the real-world applications that mobile STEM labs emphasize.

Continuing the work of mobile STEM labs across the continent, the AU aims to see students armed with the tools to lift themselves and their family members up out of poverty. In the future, the organization hopes that more African graduates will start taking positions in STEM industries.

As STEM education begins to take off in African school systems, leaders envision generations of students animated with creativity, curiosity, self-reliance and a desire to make their world a better place.

– Katie Painter 
Photo: Wikimedia

women are more affected by global poverty
Women often make up the backbone of home and society, however, global poverty often affects women the most. Women across the globe are still fighting for equality in their workplaces, general society and in their own homes. This inequality is a significant factor why women make up the bulk of the impoverished population in the world.

According to data that the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2017, the maximum rate of poverty for men was 7% while the minimum poverty rate for women was 9.7%. Depending on the race and demographics, this rate only tends to increase. Here are five ways that global poverty affects women.

5 Ways that Global Poverty Affects Women

  1. Gender Wage Gap: The availability of equally paid jobs is critical in making women independent and hence improving any economy. According to the World Economic Forum, the annual average earnings of the men around the world was $23,000 in 2018. In contrast, the global average of annual earnings of women was only $12,000. The international intergovernmental economic organization G7 inferred from collected data that the gender wage gap is prevalent throughout the world. Furthermore, G7 determined that the gender wage gap does not depend on the current financial status of any country. The G7 claimed that the global average gender wage gap was still 17% in the year 2016. Moreover, discrepancies in the wages that employers paid to women, even in developed countries, affected women in economically weaker countries and low-paying jobs significantly.
  2. Job Segregation:  The International Labor Organization (ILO) found that nearly 80% of the female labor force works in the service sectors and less-paid clerical jobs contrary to managerial, professional or leadership roles. More women in administrative positions would bring in diverse and complementing perspectives into the idea pool. An increase in females in administrative positions would also allow an insight into the female consumers’ psyche. All of these benefits, plus an increase in creativity, would consequently increase revenue. In most countries, including many developed countries, the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is unquestionably lesser than men. Only 28% of employees in STEM fields, which are the fastest-growing with higher paid jobs, are women. In addition to conservative social norms and gender bias, the lack of female role models also contributes to the smaller women labor force in STEM fields.
  3. Motherhood: Pregnancy can often be the tipping point in any woman’s career path. While women may face wage penalties, men might win salary premiums. Women frequently choose to take time off to stay at home and care for their children. However, the career break adversely affects their salaries even after they return to work. From the data that a study in Denmark conducted, a country with high gender equality measures, the salary of women sharply dropped nearly 3% after the birth of the first child and never recovered.
  4. Unpaid Caregiving: Another way that global poverty affects women is that they often don the role of caregivers for the elders and children in a family more than men, which is unpaid work. This extra work, nearly twice to 10 times the work that men do, is worth almost $11 trillion per year. Although women’s unpaid work amounts to nearly four years more work than men, women still earn less at their paid jobs. This is most likely due to the fact that women prefer part-time and easily transferable jobs after having a baby, in order to provide proper care for the child. Policies targeting lower childcare costs might help women in the long run. Additionally, policies focusing on incentives for men in sharing the childcare and domestic chores would also help women greatly. In general, providing any sort of assistance to alleviate the extra work of women would help in the long run. For example, women in Malawi spend 54 minutes a day on average collecting water. Providing labor-saving infrastructure results in less time obtaining water and more paid hours for women. Gender inequality in developing countries costs their economies $9 trillion per year. In Latin America, women’s paid work increased between 2000 and 2010. This resulted in a 30% reduction in poverty.
  5. Gender-biased Illiteracy: In low-income countries, the average literacy rate of men is 70% and 50% for women. In the 2014 World Value Survey, 26% of people across the world said that university education is comparatively more essential for a boy than a girl. A 2016 study in Nepal revealed that the poorer households sacrificed the literacy of daughters for better job prospects for sons.

How Organizations are Helping

Countries around the world have begun to realize that the inclusion of women, especially in leadership roles, is necessary for sustained, overall development. LivelyHoods, a nonprofit organization, noticed that the women were mainly the ones who dealt with household energy. In Kenya, indoor pollution due to smoke from conventional stoves causes 13,000 deaths per year. In an effort to combat indoor pollution, LivelyHoods employed the rural women population in Kenya to distribute life-improving, affordable, clean-energy products to the local population. The network of saleswomen that the organization employed distributed eco-friendly products like solar products, clean-burning cookstoves and many others. Of the top 10% of the salesforce, 90% are women who earn up to $1,000 per month. Over 1,500 trained women employees have distributed 26,000 clean energy products so far. This is an inspiring example of how indispensable women are to global development.

Ideas for Moving Forward

To help impoverished women improve their quality of life, governments could offer publicly financed schemes of extended leaves of absence for new mothers; replace individual taxation with family taxation so that the burden on the secondary earners, who are mostly women, lifts; provide tax benefits for low-wage earners; reduce the childcare cost for working women; encourage businesses to develop better practices like pay transparency and regular wage assessment based on gender; conduct free workshops for women to impart vocational skills as well as to spread awareness of various available job opportunities; offer equal job opportunities to women; conduct workshops in the men’s workplaces to show them how their personal and nation’s economy will flourish by sharing the childcare and domestic duties. Even implementing just a few of these tactics could help reduce the inequality women around the world face.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj 
Photo: Flickr

Companies Fighting for Women's Rights
Women around the globe are still fighting for a world in which they can receive equal treatment. In many developing countries, women are more vulnerable to human rights abuses and others often deny them opportunities to reach their full potential. Here are three technology companies fighting for women’s rights.

3 Tech Companies Fighting for Women’s Rights

  1. IBM: The multi-national technology company has celebrated the success of women throughout its history. IBM has had a female CEO since 2012 and has been strategic in empowering women throughout the company and around the globe. For International Women’s Day, IBM Systems Lab Services created a #BalanceforBetter campaign. The campaign engages employees around the world to advocate for women’s rights. IBM employees held up signs challenging stereotypes and biases, celebrating IBM women and supporting gender equality. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) gives women and girls across the globe the opportunity to thrive. Additionally, the organization supports organizations that serve women in 40 countries. These organizations support economic growth, health care and violence prevention among others. In Ghana, an IBM team paved the way for educating girls in rural communities. In Kenya, India and Mexico, IBM has supported organizations preventing violence against women. Additionally, in Peru, IBM supports initiatives increasing cervical cancer screenings. Through these efforts, IBM hopes to empower and protect women, while continuing to bridge the gap between women and STEM.
  2. Microsoft: For years, Microsoft has used its research technology for good to protect vulnerable populations. For example, the organization has partnered with WorldPop to count every person on Earth. By using Microsoft Azure, organizations can track the location and distribution of vulnerable populations. Microsoft hopes to aid in the creation of programs and policy changes that protect vulnerable populations and empower women. Microsoft researchers recognize that women are more vulnerable to poverty. However, they also recognize that pulling them out of poverty has exponential effects on their families and communities. In January 2020, Microsoft partnered with Care Egypt Foundation (CEF) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to launch a women empowerment campaign. Through this initiative, all organizations hope to empower women through the development of practical skills necessary for the workforce. Since 2014, Microsoft has also had an ongoing partnership with the Central Department for Community Development, aiming to tackle unemployment and economic issues through the empowerment of women in Egypt.
  3. Google: Another prominent tech titan among companies fighting for women’s rights is Google. The company equips young women with skills they need to thrive in the tech world and advocates for gender equality around the world. For example, Google’s partnership with Technovation Girls empowers young women around the globe to learn and develop technology that will impact their community. Technovation is a tech education nonprofit that empowers individuals to problem-solve, create and lead. Each year through its Technovation Girls program, the organization invites young women from all over the world and equips them to solve real-world problems through technology. Google is a platinum sponsor and has hosted these young innovators to pitch their apps at the company’s main campus in California for the chance to win scholarships. Additionally, in Google’s Arts and Culture section, the company has created a “Women in Culture” page, celebrating women in a variety of different fields. The page highlights women like Dolores Huerta, creator of the United Farm Workers, who advocated for the rights of impoverished farmers in Central America. It also features the unheard stories of women in India who have impacted Indian culture. Above all, the page champions women’s equality around the world, highlighting many unsung female heroes who have fought against injustice.

Why It Matters

An increase in women’s rights around the globe can have drastic effects on the global economy. According to U.N. Women, there is a very strong connection between empowered women and thriving economies. Providing women with job opportunities increases productivity and growth within economies. Supporting women through health care and education can also protect them from potential violence and discrimination. Large companies fighting for women’s rights have the potential to use their prominent platforms to advocate for women and to reflect these values within their own companies.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Education in Palau

Recently, the northern Pacific island nation of Palau hosted its 25th Education Convention from July 23 to July 25, with approximately 530 public and private school teachers attending. The convention follows years of progress in improving education in Palau by increasing enrollment rates, creating primary school retention programs and prolonging the average school life for both boys and girls. All these factors allow Palau to further develop its education system.

Education in Palau and Gender

Surprisingly, girls and young women in Palau have at times had higher enrollment rates than boys and men, according to a 2008 analysis by UNICEF. The Ministry of Education of Palau even stated, “…gender disparity is not an issue in Palau. If there are any cases of gender disparity, they would involve males rather than females.”

The numbers are telling. According to the Ministry in 2005, the adjusted ratio of women to men with post-secondary education was 1.11, and the ratio of girls to boys in secondary school and primary school was 1.23 and 0.92, respectively. Furthermore, according to Palau Census Data as cited in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) status report, a larger proportion of Palau women have reached higher education than men for a college degree since 2000, an associate degree since 2005 and a bachelor degree since 1990.

Only 1.5 percent of women 25 years old and over have no education background compared to 2 percent for men in the same age group. In the same category, 81.5 percent of women have one to four years of college education, while the number only stands at 75 percent for men.

Palau has outperformed some Pacific island countries in such efforts. The Global Partnership for Education states that in Papua New Guinea, for example, the 2016 primary completion rate for boys and girls was 84.7 and 73.5 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Palau’s 2014 primary completion rate for boys and girls was 96.947 and 94.69 percent, respectively. Although the Pacific Education for All effort lists various concerns of gender equity, low enrollment rates and high dropout rates for many Pacific island countries, many of these metrics do not apply to Palau.

Other Improvements Still Needed

While efforts to offer better girls’ education in Palau have been successful, other metrics for assessing the education system in Palau show that there is still room for improvement: The CIA World Factbook states that the school life expectancy for women in primary to tertiary education is 18 years compared to 16 for men. Further, the male literacy rate is 96.8 percent compared while the female literacy rate is 86 percent.

Other areas of the education system require further attention. Improving the quality of instruction is one of Palau’s top priorities, as the U.S. National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Excellence reported in 2016 that instructors scored “relatively low” on reading, writing and math skills in an assessment test. The accompanying survey found that the teachers scored particularly low on data analysis and probability; the report additionally found that teachers who scored higher had higher levels of education, taught upper-level schoolchildren and had higher reported proficiency in English.

Other indicators show weaknesses in the education system. In 2016, the student to teacher ratio in primary and secondary schools was 12:1, suggesting the possibility of overworked teachers who may not be able to give personalized attention. In primary schools in 2018, the CBE -– Life Sciences Education found that only 40 percent of teachers possessed a high school diploma. According to UNICEF, in 2015, 29 percent possessed an Associate of Arts or Science degree, and only 9 percent possessed a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Sciences. Past just the teachers, many schools do not even have adequate funding for school supplies and many buildings are in desperate need of renovations.

Tertiary education opportunities are also limited, given the small nature of Palau’s education system. With only one public high school in the country, many students attend private schools. Should students choose to attend college, the country only has one––Palau Community College (PCC). Though scholarships to attend the University of California San Diego are available, little data on tertiary education in Palau indicates few opportunities for students to expand on their education following high school.

Given that Palau has a matrilineal society and aforementioned indicators demonstrate successes in improving girls’ education in Palau and the country’s high regard for education, the main challenge is not to achieve gender parity in education but to generally boost the quality of education.

To address these concerns, the Ministry of Education has made calls for Palau schools to begin formal accreditation processes to bring more international attention to the country. Accompanying this have been efforts to implement teacher certification procedures. Studies have found varying results in English language teaching proficiency that underscore a greater need to establish training requirements for teachers and offering more opportunities for students to engage in a variety of fields, including STEM collaborations with PCC. To achieve this, the Palau government passed legislation requiring that teachers participate in a teacher preparation program at PCC.

Shaping the Landscape

International movements, organizations and regional efforts, alongside national educational improvement programs, have all helped Palau maintain high enrollment rates for girls and women and generally improve the education system. Palau’s educational achievements come almost two decades after the 2000 World Education Forum sparked Educational for All, an international movement calling for nations across the world to identify and achieve six educational goals.

With the 2006-2016 Ministry of Education’s 10-year plan to improve the quality of instruction, children have access to education from first grade until the end of high school, with compulsory primary and secondary education. The nation’s Early Childhood Comprehensive System and Head Start program––modeled similarly to American programs––provide support for families, medical services and works with Human Services and the Department of Health to help primary care providers, teachers, caregivers and families holistically care for 400 children and their development.

The ever-increasing access women have to financial stability and a wider variety of careers and roles in society throughout the past few decades have not been linked directly to women surpassing men in educational performance and attainment, according to the U.N. The 2005 census shows that women have a higher life expectancy than men, and though women are still less likely to be employed than men are, women’s median income is greater ($9,740) than that of men ($8,417). Women have “dominated” the judiciary in Palau and roles in public boards, but have yet to achieve equity in politics at the national level.

With the 25th convention coming up, the opportunities are endless for how Palau can build off its successes in creating more educational opportunities for both genders, particularly girls, by improving the overall quality of education and allowing for that education to carry over into careers and contributions to Palau society.

Jeongyoon Han
Photo: Flickr

Robotics and Programming EducationTyrone van Balla, a young South African entrepreneur, has designed a course for robotics and programming education in order to teach African children more about electronics and technology. His company, RD9 Solutions, provides accessible and affordable EdTech, or educational technology, with their innovative robots. Van Balla, originally from Cape Town, South Africa, grew up with access to a computer and now realizes how important it is for today’s children to be exposed to technology in order to be successful. As the global economy becomes more dependent on tech-savvy employees, it is imperative that Africa’s youth have the opportunity to learn these skills. That is exactly what van Balla and partner Ridhaa Benefeld plan to provide through various technologies at RD9 Solutions.

Access to technology and STEM education in many African countries is limited. In fact, UNESCO reported that only 22 percent of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, let alone any further technology. This is exactly the issue which van Balla and Benefeld plan to address through their company. Additionally, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 aims to provide full access to education, training, skills and technology for Africa’s youth, which accounts for 19 percent of the global population aged 15-24 years, by 2063. The sheer quantity of young, working-age people in Africa has the potential to yield great economic benefit for the continent. With both the government and companies like RD9 Solutions working towards a common goal, there is the possibility for huge changes in the education sector in Africa.

With the help of MiiA, the robot that the two entrepreneurs created, students can be taught robotics and programming education for other technologies. Programming is one of the most valuable modern skills and MiiA the robot helps these children quickly learn how to be efficient programmers. Students are able to program MiiA robots to do simple actions like drive, dance and play ping-pong or soccer. Once the children learn more about programming, the possibilities with MiiA are limitless, as it can be programmed to do just about anything. A robot like MiiA is so useful in Africa because it operates as a self-teaching tool, so there does not necessarily need to be someone present that knows how to program. This allows children in all parts of the continent to become self-taught programmers.

In the next five years, van Balla envisions the robots being available all throughout Africa. He also plans on this technology having a lasting impact on African youth. With a growing job skills gap, it is necessary that the education systems in African countries capitalize on this opportunity for their young people. In fact, STEM jobs alone have grown over 17 percent in the past few years creating an immediate need for more skilled workers. MiiA robots will allow students to be exposed to educational technology at an early age and develop those skills throughout their time in school. Once they enter the workforce, their programming skills will be extremely valuable to potential employers.

– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

girlsinsouthafrica
From June 24 through July 5 2019, Vodacom initiated its Code Like a Girl program in South Africa. In South Africa 70 girls were provided with the opportunity to take classes in engineering, math and coding. While one purpose of the communications company’s program was to narrow the gender gap, it means more for the country as a whole; it means the chance for sustainable jobs and prepares South Africa for the industrial revolution affecting all developing countries.

Early Stages of Code Like a Girl

Vodacom is a company based mainly in South Africa and nearby countries that is focused on mobile communications. It manages phones and data much like other companies, such as Verizon and Sprint, but on a more local scale. Even back in 2018, the company made plans to offer science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to girls in different provinces and hopefully spark an interest in these courses.

The inspiration for this plan derived from a lack of female participation in STEM courses because only 35 percent of girls pursued any kind of career in these fields. Women are also underrepresented in STEM careers, as most of them are male-dominated.

Steven Barnwell, an executive manager for Vodacom, commented that while this career gap is beginning to close globally, “in many countries, including South Africa, the gap is widening in STEM careers.” Girls in South Africa with the backing of Vodacom’s coding program might be encouraged to pursue these daunting careers, now equipped with the know-how to prosper.

Initiating the Initiative

Phoenix, a township in South Africa, documented the course of the Code Like a Girl initiative in its local news. Managing executive Chris Lazarus detailed the process and how the girls chosen benefitted.

Firstly, 70 girls in the province of KwaZulu Natal, ages 14 through 18, had been selected to learn code. They were also advised to study communications as well as science and technology subjects. Participating in both STEM subjects and Vodacom’s initiative would foster problem solving and creative thinking.

Throughout the one-week course, the girls in South Africa learned the language of the computer and how to operate programs for developers such as GitHub and JavaScript. Finally, at the end of the week, each girl presented a website she developed by herself.

Lazarus proposed that providing coding skills allows girls to thrive in the transition to a technologically developed nation, saying “we aim to have young girls excel in the fourth industrial revolution. Through our project, we want a future free of the gender inequality, more so when it comes to jobs of the future.”

Looking at the Other Benefits

Currently, South Africa boasts one of the highest information, communications and technology (ICT) markets in Africa. ICT products and service cultivates in the markets. IT jobs, therefore, are currently sought after as the economy begins to focus on its thriving industry. Girls in South Africa pursuing coding now have the opportunity to jump into the influx of jobs, securing a sustaining and well-paying future.

While the economy prospers, 30.4 million citizens still remain in poverty. Nearly half of South Africa’s black females live below the poverty threshold, and many schools remain under-resourced. However, with Code Like a Girl spreading across provinces, girls living in poverty are presented with a unique opportunity and education when the program reaches their school. A gap then not only lessens between gender, but economic class as well.

South Africa is also on the brink of a digital revolution. Communities still remain in the process of transitioning to cellphones and schools are adopting technology in their classrooms, requiring both teachers and students to adapt. Girls inspired by Vodacom’s program may find themselves with an edge, already accustomed to the confusing languages of technology while the rest of society is still getting used to it.

Matimba Mbungela, Vodacom’s Chief Officer of Human Resources, commented to ITWeb Africa in regards to the students’ situation, saying, “it [is] necessary for us as the country’s leading digital telco to take it upon ourselves and launch this initiative to prepare young females, so they can adapt skills of the future and contribute in taking our economy forward.”

Inspired by ‘Code Like a Girl,’ girls in South Africa will find a unique position in society amidst the ever-changing world of technology.

– Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in ThailandThe education system, and especially girls’ education in Thailand, has continued to improve over the past few decades. Like many poverty-stricken countries, however, Thailand still struggles to provide education for all and tackle the gender equality gap among young boys and girls in school.

  1. Thailand is among the few countries in the world that have never been colonized by European powers, therefore their education system developed mainly on its own. The country focused its efforts on education reform. However, the process was a difficult one. Thailand has had no less than 20 different education ministers in the past 17 years. After the military coup in 2014, the country’s government attempted to regain the education reforms that were interrupted and increased funding for education.
  2. Thailand’s education system gives children and families many opportunities to choose how they want to receive their education. The first nine years of a child’s education are compulsory, with six years of elementary and three years of lower-secondary school. Students can be enrolled when they first turn six and admission is generally open to all children. The government also provides free three years of both pre-school and upper-secondary education that can be completed after students finished their studies, both of which are optional. In 2013, 75 percent of eligible youth were enrolled in upper-secondary school programs. Secondary education starts at the age of 12.
  3. Girls’ access to education is virtually equal to boys’, as the Thai government provides all children with a twelve-year education. In 2006, the ministry of education found that primary school net attendance for boys was 85.1 percent and 85.7 for girls. Currently, enrollment rates are mostly equal for both genders.
  4. Though girls education in Thailand is accessible, girls still face discrimination and other hardships at school. Educational opportunities in Thailand are more of an issue of class and affordability than gender and culture, though both are factors. Some such hardships are the cost of supplies and uniforms. A report by the poverty line found that in higher education, the student’s family could not afford the school fees, uniform expenses, textbooks, meals and especially transportation costs to the school.
  5. The Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., found that girls face discrimination in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields from as early as primary school. A 2015 report published by the UNESCO found that the discrimination in these cases stemmed from gender stereotypes and a lack of female role models in STEM.

UNESCO is now working with Thai educators to improve STEM education and motivate young girls to pursue their dreams in the science fields. This initiative is a part of a 20-year strategy that aims to transform the country to increase innovation, creativity, research, development and green and high-technologies driving the economy.

– Madeline Oden
Photo: Creative Commons

Georgia
Twenty-three years ago, Georgia committed itself to the goal of removing all discrimination against women. This pledge occurred at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, where the involved nations signed an international convention that called on each country to create an action plan.

While social norms continue to reinforce a gender divide that undermines girls’ education in Georgia, a lot has changed since the momentous convention. Here are seven things to know about girls’ education in Georgia.

7 Important Facts About Girls’ Education in Georgia

  1. Georgian girls outperform boys in reading, mathematics and science. Indeed, the average mathematics score for 4th-grade girls was seven percent more than that for boys; in addition, the average science scores favored 4th-grade girls by nine percent.
  2. The graduation rate from upper secondary schools in 2012-2013 was 74.4 percent for females, compared to 68.8 percent for males. In those same years, 91.2 percent of all females transitioned from lower secondary to upper secondary schools, compared to 85.8 percent of males. The dropout and repeat rates, on the other hand, were the same for both girls and boys, with a dropout rate of 0.2 percent and a repeat rate of 0.1 percent in grade three.
  3. Despite their academic achievements, Georgian girls are underrepresented in STEM and entrepreneurial occupations. In fact, 58 percent of all respondents to a research report by the U.N. Development Program saying that a man would make a better business leader. According to the World Bank, Georgian girls are brought up to believe that STEM careers are more suitable for men; young Georgian women overwhelmingly major in arts, education and healthcare. Men, on the other hand, tend to major in high-wage sectors like engineering and manufacturing. Organizations like the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Girls Up are stepping up to fill in the gap in Georgian girls’ STEM education. Since 2015, MCC has arranged exchange programs between Georgian and American students, placing a special emphasis on women participation and allowing Georgians to earn reputable STEM degrees. The global initiative Girls Up has organized a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design and Mathematics camp to help girls realize their leadership potential and explore new disciplines.
  4. In some cases, early marriages have prevented teenage girls from completing their education. In 2015 alone, 224 girls aged 14 – 16 left school on the grounds of marriage. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that 17 percent of Georgian women married before the age of 18. Recognizing that early marriage carries adverse effects for girls’ education in Georgia, the Georgian Parliament ruled in a law passed on January 1, 2017 that only individuals who have reached the age of 18 are legally allowed to marry.
  5. Girls from ethnic minorities — Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Russians, Ossetians — are more likely to drop out of school. In an effort to engage these ethnic minorities with the school curriculum, Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science has supported bilingual education programs and professional development for teachers residing in ethnic enclaves. In 2014, the Ministry awarded certificates to 80 teachers for their completion of the “Teach Georgian as a Second Language” program, which offered professional development for educators in non-Georgian schools.
  6. While Georgian girls are more likely than boys to enroll in tertiary education, educated women make up the largest category of underemployed women. Once employed, these women face a 37 percent earnings gap with their male counterparts. Diminishing this gap will incentivize more girls to pursue higher education. The Law on Gender Equality — passed on January 1, 2014 — sought to do just that by raising paid maternity leave from 126 to 183 calendar days.
  7. U.N. bodies have collaborated with Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science to foster gender equality at school. The U.N. Women initiative, which took root in Georgia in 2001, supports girls’ education in Georgia by hosting training sessions for women interested in entrepreneurial careers. On July 25, 2018, a U.N. Women training on organizational management and leadership brought together 25 aspiring women entrepreneurs. Likewise, the Peace Corps sent 114 volunteers to Georgia to assist with English education in geographically remote areas of Georgia. After being assigned to a public school, volunteers work with teachers to organize after-school English clubs and teacher workshops in regional centers.

Increased Opportunities

With more national awareness and international assistance, Georgia has worked to promote educational opportunities for girls. Laws like the ban on early marriages help keep girls in school for longer and further their career goals.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr