An increase in the participation of young girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects will transform stereotypical perceptions about girls’ interests and aptitudes.
This was expressed by the Fiji National University’s Associate Dean for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Vasenai Kereni following the successful Girls in STEM camp held in collaboration with Graduate Women Fiji.
The STEM camp is a joint initiative of the Fiji National University and Graduate Women (Fiji) which is dedicated to encouraging and inspiring young girls to pursue and complete their educational aspirations.
The day-long camp was funded by Gutteridge Haskins & Davey (GHD) Engineering with the support of Australian National University’s Science Circus Pacific (SCP), Nanogirls Lab, and FNU.
The camp saw 23 young girls gather to learn more about STEM through a virtual show, fun experiments and activities, and STEM career talks by trainers.
“The goal of this program is to increase girls’ participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies as well as inspire them to aspire to STEM careers,” Kereni said.
“Developing the interests of young girls in STEM at an early age will empower them to dream bigger and to develop a mindset of growth together with building their confidence and relationship with STEM subjects.”
“The career talk from GHD and getting participants to the workshop was the highlight of the day, as the girls got to feel how to handle engineering tools and use them in a safe way. We want to ignite that spark in girls and let them know that they can be whoever and whatever they want to be.”
GWF Immediate Past President Maria Ronna Luna Pastorizo-Sekiguchi said they hope to make the camps sustainable and maintain yearly camps.
“It would be good to ask a development partner to help us create a plan so that we could make this a sustainable camp, a model that would work so that we can have more girls in Fiji to be able to do this and ignite that spark in learning for the girls,” she said.
Kalesi Nainoca, an avid supporter of the initiative who had enrolled her 11-year-old daughter Unaisi Marseu Baleira for the camp said the initiative provides a great learning environment for young girls.
“My daughter has been part of Girls in STEM since 2019 and it has really been an eye opener for her,” she said.
“Una is an introvert and the program allowed her to socialise with her other sisters. She has grown to love science subjects through the program and has subscribed to the Nanogirl’s science adventures, which is giving her exposure to the world of science.”
More than 200 applications were received from participants of which 30 were selected for the camp in 2019, 23 of which attended the camp at FNU. Virtual camps are expected to be held for participants in the Western Division in the coming months.