From the United Nation’s website: Since 2012, 11 October has been marked as the International Day of the Girl. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
International Day of the Girl is a time to stop and recognize what’s at stake if we don’t address the very real challenges girls face across the world. We take our role in this endeavor seriously and with great passion, and are honored to be one player among many doing phenomenal work.
This work is in our blood as an organization. We’ve seen girls in action, from events like our 3D Printing Academy for Girls, to a dedicated and consistent effort to learn and grow in our flagship program, YTF Academy. We’ve even made a commitment to train 6,000 out-of-school girls in Nigeria who are at risk of, or have survived, human trafficking in cutting-edge, in-demand technology skills. The passion and eagerness within each girl we encounter is palpable, and we’re delighted to play a role in creating an empowering environment.
Much of our work also aligns with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. It’s quite the motivator to run toward such a goal, but we do it knowing a multitude of other organizations and individuals are running in our pack.
The next frontier: Space for Women Project
While our work typically focuses on trainings like computer literacy and 3D printing, we’re eager to find other ways to empower girls to pursue STEM-related career paths. Just last week, our President and CEO, Njideka Harry, spoke at the UN’s Expert Meeting on Space for Women. It turns out the sky actually isn’t the limit to what girls can do!
The Space for Women project is organized by the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs, which has a vision “to bring the benefits of space to humankind,” and they are “committed to ensuring that those benefits reach women and girls, and that women and girls play an active and equal role in space science, technology, innovation and exploration.”
We’re particularly intrigued by specific discussions on education:
What are the skills needed to enter into the space sector?
Includes STEM areas (math, aeronautics, physics, engineering, biology, earth science, etc), 21st century skills (creativity, collaboration, problem solving, curiosity, adaptability, etc), ancillary disciplines (innovation management, policymaking, law, journalism, marketing, education, etc), and application areas (e.g. environment).
Sounds like the perfect fit for us!
Njideka’s presentation, “Women in STEM: Bridging the Gender Gap in Technical Careers” emphasized the need to innovate within existing teaching methodologies by encouraging girls to develop spatial skills. She highlighted the relevance of YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls in the U.S. and 3D Africa for Girls in Nigeria, where girls are inspired to pursue STEM through introductions to 3D Printing.
Lessons from the humanitarian sector were highlighted by Dr. Kirsen Gelsdorf, including the first wrench to be 3D printed in space by Made in Space. The relevance of such technologies and women’s leadership and equal participation in innovation in the space sector is critical.
Namira Salim, the first Pakistani astronaut, shared her experience with the cultural and socio-psychological challenges of growing up as a young girl in Pakistan, in the delivery of her presentation, “Space Diplomacy and Making.”
The group jointly explored what areas in satellite technologies can explicitly help girls and women. Using the recent earthquake in Mexico as a crisis example, participants explored what types of products, partnerships and policies would need to be put in place that will be beneficial to women. One piece of information coming out of the earthquake showed a striking need for this conversation: 70 percent of the casualties in Mexico were women because they were at home caring for children and/or elderly parents when the earthquake struck.
For now and for the future
When girls grow up, we know the barriers don’t go away. We work with female entrepreneurs like Aishat, who have navigated unnecessary roadblocks to start and grow a business just because she’s a woman.
To the women of the future, and all the girls yet to come – we’re see you, we believe in you, and we’re not going to stop fighting for you. As was noted throughout the event: “Women hold up half the sky? No, women hold up half the universe.”