Accra – African women are boldly taking their rightful place in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the support of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), as the world marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science today.
“In an age of increasing digitalisation, climate change concerns and health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the critical importance of scientific and technological capacity is more evident than ever,” according to a World Bank article on the subject.
“Individuals with advanced skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are crucial to push us to new frontiers as well as tackle urgent challenges. However, the potential of one group has been consistently under-harnessed in this regard: women.”
The authors say only 30% of science professionals in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Research has shown several factors contributing to the underrepresentation of women in STEM – negative stereotypes about girls’ and women’s capability in STEM fields, discrimination against women in the classroom and workplace and traditional gender roles that place the burden of domestic responsibilities disproportionately on the shoulders of women, leaving them less time to work in labs, attend conferences and build networks.
Removing these barriers is an essential step towards closing the gender gap and giving women an equal chance at succeeding in STEM.
CCBA’s general manager of Voltic (GH) Ltd, Flora Jika, said CCBA was committed to playing its part in promoting the advancement of women in the sciences.
“Because women are integral to our continent’s shared success, we seek to empower women and girls throughout our markets on the continent,” Jika said.
“Our aim is to create greater shared opportunity for the business and the communities we serve across the value-chain. Opportunity is more than just money, it’s about a better future for people and their communities everywhere on the African continent.”
In Ghana, CCBA subsidiary Voltic (GH) Limited has partnered with the Girls Excellence Movement (GEM) to increase impact in the lives of women and children in the communities where it operates. GEM is a team of dynamic Ghanaian, Nigerian, Tanzanian, American and British young professional volunteers who devote their skills, time and other resources to delivering carefully curated capacity building programmes for girls.
GEM’s vision is to inspire, educate, mentor, and inform girls to help them become change leaders. It develops girls into excellent, independent, confident, well informed and fearless women who are able and willing to take on leadership in all spheres of life, particularly careers in the STEM fields.
Under the partnership, GEM and Voltic organised their first Inspiration-On-Wheels outreach to Comboni Technical Vocational Institute (COMBOTECH) at Sogakope in the Volta Region of Ghana in 2022.
Discussions during the session covered various topics, including menstrual health and their rights online, STEM subjects and careers, sexual assault awareness and how to effectively engage with the team of mentors. The girls were also given free sanitary pads and mathematical sets.
Voltic has also partnered with the non-profit organisation Girls in Science and Technology (GIST).
GIST’s mission aligns with Voltic’s passion for women and youth empowerment, providing them with the mentorship and coaching they need for a successful and impactful STEM career, and exposing them to opportunities in the STEM industry.
Voltic supports GIST with internship opportunities for female STEM students who fit in the company’s operations. Voltic also partners with GIST to organise empowerment campaign programmes for girls in secondary and tertiary institutions in Ghana.
In 2022, GIST launched the GIST-UMaT Chapter in Takoradi. The aim was to promote the participation of young females in STEM, to increase their interest in the career opportunities available to them. This chapter seeks to create a community where the girls have blueprint role models to look up to. It will also expose them to internship opportunities to give them the head start they need for a successful STEM career.
Referring to the successes of CCBA’s women empowerment programmes, Jika said: “By investing in women’s economic empowerment, we have created shared value in hopes of a better shared future – enabling improved livelihoods for women, their families and their communities, while inclusively expanding our business.
“Our aim is to boost income, provide decent earning potential and improve skills and business knowledge for women, resulting in them accessing other opportunities.”