I grew up loving Mathematics and Computers (I taught myself out of curiosity how to use the computer), building stuff like footwear, and I started drawing (self-taught) at 11. I was usually asked why I loved the ‘boys stuff’ or acted like a boy. Then I often thought to myself how loving these things, how following my passion translates to being a boy. These were some of the things my male friends did and nobody complained about them. My young, inquisitive mind kept wondering why everything was wrong with what I was doing and I later found an answer to my many questions. I am a GIRL.
Now, when you think of a mechanical engineer, a scientist or even a programmer, what comes to your mind? A man right? What about thinking of a nurse or teacher? I am sure you thought I was referring to a woman. My point here is not to place any career more highly than the other but to make us all see how we have somehow contributed to the stereotypes young girls and even boys face albeit unknowingly.
We tell the girl child that she is too brilliant for a girl, she is not meant to go near STEM because she is a girl, we tell the boy he is too soft, he is too girly, nursing is meant for the girls, he cannot be a teacher when his mates are becoming doctors and engineers.
My dream is to change these narratives, to see girls empowered and achieve their full potential because I believe an empowered girl can achieve her dreams and break the cycle of poverty and the glass box of stereotypes. A girl who is allowed to choose her path would not only be beneficial to herself but, also her family, community and the world at large.
Empowering and educating the girl child, allowing girls pursue their dreams is not about doing them a favour but giving them the chance and access to all their rights as human. It’s about allowing them dream and achieve all impossibilities. When I say girls should be empowered in STEM, I am not trying to make all girls engineers, Programmers or Mathematicians like myself, I am giving every girl the opportunity to live their dream, the choice to choose whatever they want to be through education and innovation, the choice to live a life they’ve always wanted to. It’s reminding them they have the power to be whatever they are truly passionate about.
Mathematics is only difficult either because of some societal misconception, the way the subject is taught or for many other excuses one could give. I figured if these pedagogic issues could be solved, if there could be a mind-set shift, then things would be a lot easier not just for girls but even the little boys in her class. Teachers should simplify teaching materials and methods of teaching these “difficult subjects”.
I believe everyone should be given the right to choose whatever they want to be, free from stereotypes and expectations from the society. That way, young girls would be confident in themselves and be a voice to their generation.
I am a girl and I can fly.