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Girls in STEM, ICT more enterprising – Experts

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Girls

Lagos, 17, 2019 Some female Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts said that girls in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) were more enterprising due to their nature.

The female ICT experts made the assertion in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on the sidelines of the e-Business Life Communications Girls-ICT-Day held in Lagos.

Mrs Justina Abdulateef, Lagos State Public Sector Enterprise, Globacom, said that when girls put their minds on ICT, they excelled in it because of their peculiar nature.

Abdulateef said that girls had good qualities of becoming very good ICT experts “and if they give STEM the required attention, they would excel in their field’’.

According to her, a country or an economy that encourages girls in acquiring the knowledge of ICT would have improved standard of living.

She said that the nature of girls to be attentive and caring in whatever they do, would push them to thrive in the ICT space.

Abdulateef called on government to give opportunities to girls.

She decried the stereotypes linked to girls, saying that gone were the days when girls would be asked to do house chores, while boys were given technological toys and others.

She urged girls not to allow anybody to limit them in what they want to do, saying that they need to be part of the great picture of inventions that are going on.

“We need to break new grounds and so the need not to ignore the Girlforce and this will be achieved where there is more support in the capacity building of the girl.

“Take charge of your future, plan your life, it is in your hands, develop your skills and do not let anyone deter you from your goal,’’ Abdulateef said.

Obafunke Atanda, Senior Manager, Product Portfolio, Vodacom Business Nigeria, said that the girl-child needs to love STEM as it is the future language no matter one’s profession.

Atanda said that girls might not be interested in STEM but they also need to embrace things like coding, because it is the future language of the next revolution no matter the profession.

According to her, no matter your discipline whether in Arts, Social Sciences, coding is the language of the future.

“For the girls, they need to embrace coding because the next revolution is digital and what is underneath the digital revolution is coding, computer sciences and all of that.

“It is no longer a man`s world, it is everybody’s world. So the girl-child needs to find her feet in the world of STEM.

“It is because whatever they set their mind to do, they excel in it and most times never-give-up nature.

“ The girl-child should change the mind-set of being second fiddle in order not to be relegated.

“ They need to pursue their goals and aim high. The sky is no longer the limit for them but the universe,’’ Atanda said.

Edited by Adeleye Ajayi

Health

Minister tasks lawmakers on ending violence against women, girls

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The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, on Monday urged lawmakers to enact laws and evolve polices that would ensure a safe society and end violence against women and girls.

Tallen made the call in the ministry’s official twitter handle, @FMWA-ng in Abuja.

She was reacting to the recent killings of Miss Uwaila Omozuwa and Miss Tina Ezekwe by yet-to-be-identified hoodlums and police respectively.

Omozuwa, a 100-level Microbiology student of the University of Benin was killed after her attackers had raped her inside a church in Benin, while Ezekwe was allegedly shot dead by a policeman in Lagos.

The minister decried the increase in sexual violence in homes across the country, stressing the need to urgently address the issue and ensure dependable security in the country.

‪”I condemn these horrific acts and call on our lawmakers to take emergency actions on this dastardly oppression that is suddenly on the increase.

The Ministry of Women Affairs is aware of how vulnerable Nigerian women are, and record of cases being reported indeed stirs rage.

“We are working passionately to address these issues of violence and abuse against women in Nigeria, and are doing this from all angles – policies, legislature and regulations – to create a Nigerian society that is safe for every woman.

Our goal is to build systems that are efficient and reliable,’’ the minister said.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the UNWomen recently disclosed a rise in Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Lagos State with 300 per cent increase between March and April.

The group also disclosed that in the FCT the increase was 520 per cent during the period, amid COVID-19 lockdown and other social measures put in place.

 


Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Ejike Obeta (NAN)

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Science & Technology

Foundation awards scholarship to 5 Nigerian girls, others 

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Working to Advance Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Education for African Women (STEMWAAW) Foundation has awarded scholarship to ten college girls in Africa for their studies.

The Chief Operating Officer of the foundation, Mrs Loveth Imo, disclosed this on Friday in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.

Imo said that the scholarship was awarded to the girls because they were under-privileged, from poor socio-economic backgrounds in public schools.

The WAAW foundation need-based scholarship is awarded to African female undergraduate college students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines in colleges in Africa from age 18-32 years.

“We provide 500 dollars to support underprivileged girls such as orphans, girls impacted by HIV or girls from low-income families who demonstrate proven financial need while studying a STEM-related degree course.

“Scholars are mentored to become college-to-secondary STEM advocates, leaders, and change agents, who give back to their communities and promote technology innovation for problem-solving.

“In the past years, WAAW foundation’s awards up to five girls and from 2007 to date, WAAW foundation has awarded a total of 74 girls from over 20 African countries.

In 2020, WAAW foundation increased its impact and has awarded ten girls from nine universities and six African countries,” she said.

According to her, girls who go to school and stay in school are able to find jobs, and they spend most of their incomes on their families.

She further said that the young women impact their families, communities and country at large.

Imo said the students were accessed through virtual interviews after a written application.

The official added that the foundation had alumni community, where they constantly mentor the girls, connect them to jobs or internship programmes upon graduation and also employ some.

“We have employed over 10 fellows in the last five years either through internship and our goal is that they graduate with a degree and be relevant in their community, especially to the younger girls,” Imo said.

The girls are five Nigerians, which included Miracle Ufodiama, studying Computer Science in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ajakaiye Rita, studying Physics Electronics in Federal University of Technology, Akure.

Other Nigerian students are Nweze Perpetua, Agricultural Extension, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Naomi Oborewori, Mechanical Engineering from Delta State University and Goodness Esene studying Petroleum Engineering in University of Benin.

The other girls are Delelegne Yenework studying Software Engineering in Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, Paskalina Amos, Computer Engineering in University of Dodoma,Tanzania, Orera Anita, Geomatic Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems in Jomo Kenyatta University, Kenya.

Others are Tawiah Macbeth, studying Oil and Gas Engineering in All Nations University College, Ghana and Marcella Ishimwe, studying Architecture in University of Rwanda.

WAAW foundation is a non-profit making organisation with the mandate to empower girls in Africa by increasing the number of girls educated in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

The foundation also encourages the girls’ engagement in technology, entrepreneurship and innovation to benefit Africa.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Foreign

Afghan girls design ventilator from car parts for Covid-19 patients

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A group of Afghan girls has designed the prototype of a cheap ventilator that can help patients, suffering from the novel coronavirus who are struggling, to breathe.

Members of the all-female robotics team known as the “Afghan Dreamers” – aged between 12 and 18 years old – live in the country’s western Herat province.

The six-member team took up the challenge when the virus reached their province after thousands of people fled neighbouring Iran to escape the pandemic.

Local officials said they were concerned about lack of ventilators to help patients severely affected by the disease.

The ‘Afghan Girls’ Robotic Team’, as they are also known, created a prototype for a ventilator costing around $600.

A standard ventilator costs an average of $30,000 on the global market.

Spare parts from Toyota Corolla cars and motorcycles were the only tools available to the teenagers as they built the device during the lockdown.

A physician from Harvard University and scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were among the experts the team approached for guidance.

“The ventilator is almost completed and only needs an air sensor to work similar to a standard device,’’ said Roya Mahboob, the tech entrepreneur, who sponsors 50 girls including the robotics team.

Mahboob has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.

In the absence of the air sensor, the team’s ventilator can pump air into the lungs of patients for two hours.

Nahid Rahimi, 18, who joined the group last year, told dpa that the team had tested the device in a hospital and that experts approved of it.

Some improvements are still needed though, she said.

The team also plans to present a new device in the near future called the “Virus Killer”.

It scans and kills viruses on surfaces in seconds, using a UV light.

“The team has done a brilliant job,’’ Ms Mahboob said, noting the country’s lack of resources and the ongoing war.

“At a time as the world is fighting the coronavirus crisis, the Afghan girls took a step forward and did what they could.’’

The Afghan Dreamers have been honing their skills for years but in 2017, when hoping to attend an international robotics competition in Washington, the team was denied a visa by the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The ensuing headlines reportedly led the U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene and the girls returned from the event with a silver medal for “courageous achievement”.

Since then, the team has participated in many other competitions from Canada to Mexico.

The girls’ robots have won prizes including the 2018 Rookie Inspiration Award and the 2019 Asia Game Changer award.

Their homeland had recorded some 10,000 cases of the virus by Saturday and a death toll of 216 that includes at least 11 health workers.

Of Afghanistan’s 37 million people, only 30,000 have been tested since the country reported its first case in February.

The country has limited testing capabilities and a fragile health-care system after four decades of war and conflict.

There are fears of further, undetected outbreaks in Afghanistan, where there are only 400 ventilators and 3,000 beds for patients suffering from COVID-19.

Many in the country do not believe that the virus is particularly serious and there is a rumour that the president is exaggerating about the disease in order to attract aid.

However, the number of cases continues to climb.

“If the situation continues like this, we may see a major crisis and tragedy in Afghanistan in June and July,’’ Health Minister, Firuzuddin Firuz, warned recently.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

 
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Foreign

UNDP urges swift action to address violence against women, girls during pandemic

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Governments across the world must act urgently to prevent and tackle the rising rates of violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said Friday.

Governments must put “stronger measures in place” such as designating shelters and hotlines as emergency services and support police and the justice sector during lockdowns to better protect women and girls, it said.

Guidance from UNDP, Gender-based violence and COVID-19, also recommends developing new protocols to provide support via phone or online platforms rather than in person, expanding immediate response services in order to save lives, and most ensuring that steps to prevent gender-based violence are in every COVID-19 response plan and budget, said UNDP, the United Nations’ global development network.

“Now more than ever there is a need to send a strong message that violence will not be tolerated, those who carry it out will be brought to justice, and survivors will be heard and supported,” said Raquel Lagunas, acting director of the UNDP gender team.

The impacts of the COVID-19 on women and girls include rising rates of domestic or intimate partner violence, while lockdowns and social distancing may be particularly hard on survivors of gender-based violence, who may already be economically dependent on their abusers.

Together with other UN agencies, UNDP is working with more than 40 governments around the world to prevent and address gender-based violence during the crisis.

UNDP said, by citing an example in Somalia, that UNDP is supporting communities to develop neighborhood watch systems, where men and women receive training to regularly patrol their neighborhood to prevent or mitigate incidents of violence.

In Mexico UNDP, in collaboration with UN Women, is helping establish phone and online platforms to support vulnerable women via the LUNA centers, which are safe spaces for women and girls.

In Botswana, community members, including school principals, tribal chiefs, farmers and nurses, are raising awareness of the rise in violence and advising the government on village challenges and needs.

In Uganda, UNDP in partnership with Jumia Food Uganda, the leading e-commerce company in the country, is exploring how to incorporate messaging to prevent violence against women and girls in an e-commerce platform which connects small and medium-sized enterprises and informal market vendors to customers.

In the Dominican Republic, UNDP and BHD Bank are putting in place a partnership to facilitate referral services of domestic violence cases that are reported by the bank’s customers.

UNDP is coordinating with UN sister agencies and development partners, for example, through the Spotlight Initiative, a joint EU-UN partnership to end violence against women and girls. The global, multi-year initiative is targeting 50 million direct beneficiaries across five regions and more than 25 countries.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Pakistani police hunt for killer of 2 girls seen in kissing video

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Pakistani Police have launched a manhunt following the murder of two teenage girls, who were seen kissing a man in a video that went viral on social media.

The girls were killed last week in the deeply conservative and war-torn north-western area of North Waziristan in what the Police suspect was an act of “honour killing”.

Police say the video, which they believe prompted the girls’ murder, was shot a year ago but had only recently been uploaded on social media.

“The females were sisters, identified as Jasima Bibi and Saeeda Bibi,’’ North Waziristan Police Chief, Shafiullah Gandapur, told Reuters.

Their family had been displaced by a military operation against militants in their hometown, he said.

He said the man, who was filmed kissing them in a 44-second video, was arrested on Monday together with a friend, who the Police believe uploaded the video.

But the Police believe the murder suspect fled to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

Police also said the girls’ father and uncle had been arrested on suspicion of concealing the murder and evidence.

The killing is the first high-profile criminal case to be pursued in the formerly autonomous tribal region, where ultra-conservative customs present a big challenge for the Police.

Pakistan extended police jurisdiction to the area in 2018, ending more than a century of relatively autonomous rule in a region used by Taliban and al-Qaeda militants to launch attacks in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.

Police said the girls’ relatives and local residents did not want a case registered because of “local traditions”, so the Police became the complainant in the case.

Thousands of incidents of violence against women perceived to have “damaged” family honour are reported in Pakistan each year and many more go unreported, rights groups say.

Pakistan enacted legislation to protect against “honour killings” in 2016.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Foreign

Police arrest relatives in Pakistan for ‘honour killing’ of teenage girls

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Police in north-western Pakistan on Monday confirmed the arrest of the close relatives of two teenage girls who were killed in the name of  honour  after they appeared in a viral video with a man.

The father of one of the victim and brother of the other were taken into custody and had confessed to the killings, local police official Mohamed Nawaz said.

A third girl who had appeared in the video was still alive and had been rescued, said police official Mohamed Ibrahim, but he didn’t disclose her whereabouts due to security concerns.

A video on social media showing a young man and the girls in a secluded area outdoors is believed to be the reason behind the killings in the North Waziristan region, once a stronghold of al-Qaeda.

The young man in the video with the girls, aged 16 and 18, was arrested while on the run in the northern town of Haripur, Ibrahim said.

His accomplice, who allegedly shot the video and shared it on social media, was also arrested from the nearby region of South Waziristan, he said.

In tribal traditions and culture, women associating with male strangers are seen as an act of dishonor  for  the family.

Every year, around a thousand women are killed in honour killings for bringing shame to their families, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Earlier this week, government officials and activists reported a notable increase in honour killings  and murders due to domestic disputes during the coronavirus lockdown.

Pakistan fares badly on global gender indexes. In 2019, it ranked 164 out of 167 countries on the Women, Peace and Security Index, only placing above Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

 

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Health

COVID-19: UNFPA to protect women’s, girls’ reproductive rights

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United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Monday said it would ensure women’s and girls’ choices and rights to sexual reproductive health were respected regardless of their COVID-19 status.

Dr Sabrina Pestilli, Reproductive-Maternal Health Adviser, UNFPA, said this in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.

The statement was signed by Mrs Kori Habib, Media Associate, UNFPA

NAN reports that UNFPA had projected that there could be about seven million unwanted pregnancies globally from the ongoing lockdown.

Pestilli said there was need to prioritise health programmes to respond to the infectious disease outbreak which had impacted on sexual and reproductive health services.

“We will ensure women’s and girls’ choices and rights to sexual and reproductive health is respected regardless of their COVID-19 status, including access to contraception and emergency contraception,” she said.

Pestilli said that UNFPA would work in synergy with Ministry of Health to strengthen, fund, implement and integrate gender and sexual and reproductive health into COVID-19 preparedness and response.

According to her, UNFPA will operationalise plans and maintain ongoing Special Reproductive Health (SRH) programmes.

She said the agency was committed to ensuring maintenance of access to healthcare including sexual and reproductive services.

Pestilli said UNFPA would continue to do this even when medical resources were scarce with special attention to pregnant women among vulnerable populations.

The adviser said UNFPA would continue to show care and love to persons living with disabilities, HIV and poverty as well as people belonging to indigenous groups in line with their COVID-19 response.

She said: “We will support supply chain to guarantee presence of modern contraceptive and also Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to front line medical workers.

“The protection of health workers, midwives, nurses and anesthesiologists must be prioritised as critical and lifesaving, and they should have personal protective equipment if they are treating patients with COVID-19.”

Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Ejike Obeta (NAN)

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General news

COVID-19: Misinformation affects women, girls mostly- UN Agency

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Mrs Patience Ekeoba, the National Programme Officer, UN Women in Nigeria, has expressed worry over misinformation and poor access to right information by women on the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Ekeoba said this at a Webinar on Overriding Influence of Misinformation on the COVID- 19 Pandemic, organised by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Abuja on Tuesday.

Speaking on the theme, “The impact of Misinformation on Women and Girls during Health Emergencies”, she said that such affected women and girls access to sexual and reproductive health.

According to her, lack of true and concise information is fueling anxiety and making women who are on family planning services not getting them.

While noting that this would lead to making compromising decisions, she called for partnership with women rights’ organisations in dispelling fears about COVID-19.

According to her, misinformation affects women more because they play multiple roles as nurses, traders, home makers and also control the informal sector as farmers.

She said that women needed correct information to make informed decisions about their wellbeing.

“We have had scenarios of women who deal on perishable goods losing their incomes from bad decisions as the information didn’t get to them in a timely manner.

“Women have been excluded and stigmatised from getting the palliatives being shared in some places, as they lack the strength to contend with the male folks,” the programme officer said.

Ekeoba also expressed concern that cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) were on the increase among women and girls, saying current data stood at 67 per cent.

She said that it was important for abused women to have the needed information to know where to get help and the needed support in a timely manner.

According to her, the impact of misinformation on the pandemic include heightened fear, sleeplessness, depression and more health issues.

She called for the creation of more counseling and psychosocial centres to cater for the needs of women and girls post COVID-19 era.

Earlier, Dr Olunifesi Suraj of the Mass Communications Department, University of Lagos, blamed the mainstream media for its role in fueling misinformation and disinformation in the country.

According to him, the truth has become a scarce commodity and it is underlying the voice of the knowledgeable ones who are in the minority.

Suraj stressed the need for educated people amongst the populace to take the lead in sharing knowledge and debunk fake news in its entirety.

He described misinformation as a pandemic that could only be cured by sharing of timely and accurate information at all times.

According to the WHO, the COVID-19 pandemic is accompanied by an Infodemic, a spread of disinformation and misinformation; making it difficult for people to get accurate information for informed decisions.

Edited By: Bayo Sekoni/Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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Science & Technology

Girls in ICT Day: NITDA says sector needs more women, girls

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), says the country needs more women and girls to build careers in the ICT sector for fair representation and socio-economic development.

Mrs Hadiza Umar, NITDA Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, said this in a statement issued on Thursday in Abuja to commemorate this year’s “Girls in ICT Day”.

The Girls in ICT Day was initiated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2014, to create a global environment that empowers girls and young women to consider careers in ICT.

It is marked every fourth Thursday in April.

According to her, building a career in ICT makes one reliant economically, improve lives, contributes to better healthcare, environmental management, communication, enhanced educational system and learning processes.

Umar said that jobs in the future would be driven by technology and innovation.

“NITDA is drawing attention to the critical need for more girls and women to participate actively in the ICT sector of our economy.

“The ITU had estimated skills shortfall of over two million jobs in the ICT sector within the next few years.

“This opens a huge opportunity for girls and young women who have the ability to learn Coding, Apps Development, Computer Science and other ICT related courses.

“This will not only make them ready for a successful career in the ICT sector, but ICT skills are rapidly becoming a strong advantage for students in any other field they might choose to pursue.

“We must be proactive in preparing a significant number of our women and girls’ population for these opportunities, for productivity and enable them contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic development of the country,” she said.

Umar said that globally, there was a disruption in human activities, hence no gender of the population should be left out in the new world order.

She said that stakeholders should remain resolute, review strategies toward supporting young women and girls for opportunities in the tech ecosystem.

Umar said in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, the Agency was bridging ICT sector gender imbalance with capacity building programmes for women and girls across the country.

She said that empowering girls to choose a career in ICT was good for the girls and their families.

According  to her, it will also accelerate the socio-economic development of the country, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and post era.

Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Ese E. Ekama (NAN)

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