Every year, on March 8, Sierra Leone joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s Day, a day set aside to honour women’s achievements in social, cultural, economic, political, and all other walks of life.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” This year’s theme reflects on the role of innovative technology in promoting gender equality and meeting the health and developmental needs of women and girls.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in his message stresses how technology can expand pathways to education and opportunities for women and girls, but it can also be used to amplify abuse and hatred.
“Today, women make up under a third of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math and when women are under-represented in developing new technologies, discrimination may be baked in from the start. That is why we must close the digital divide and increase the representation of women and girls in science and technology,” said Guterres.
However, the world depends greatly on strong technological integrations to do things. But 37 per cent of women do not use the internet and other technological systems, even though they account for nearly half the world’s population.
In Sierra Leone, women are unable to access the internet safely, they are unable to develop the necessary digital skills to engage in digital spaces, which provides more opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields.
According to the UN, by 2050, 75 per cent of jobs in the world will be related to STEM areas and yet today, women hold just 22 per cent of jobs in related fields.
Despite all these challenges, there are women in Sierra Leone that are breaking barriers in the field of STEM and in this piece, we are highlighting them as part of this year’s International Women’s Day celebration.
Michala Mackay – she is the Director and Chief Operating Officer at the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation in the Office of the President.
Mackay drives DSTI’s organizational vision, operational strategy, and talent acquisition. She works closely with partners, donors, and stakeholders to deliver Sierra Leone’s National Innovation and Digitization Strategy. Also, she leads the drive to enshrine technology for national development.
Prior to joining DSTI, the Barrister and Solicitor with 17 years of experience was the Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission. During her time at Corporate Affairs, she worked on reforms that initiated an improvement in rank in Sierra Leone’s “Starting a Business Indicator” under the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, moving from 99 to 58 out of 190 economies in a little over 3 years.
Hawa Yokie – an award-winning innovator, STEM entrepreneur/enthusiast and co-founder of the Kamara-Yokie Innovation Center in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s first youth-owned and youth-led innovation hub.
Yokie has worked on several projects in Sierra Leone, and she has firsthand experience with how innovation can solve social problems. A few years ago, she was part of a team that built a solar and wind-powered turbine to electrify 50 homes in Kenema District.
The economist’s student central mission is to end discrimination and promote STEM education among girls. At the Kamara-Yokie, they teach teens – especially girls STEM subjects, computing, robotics, and coding.
Margaret Yainkain Mansaray – she is an innovator and the Chief Executive Officer of Women in Energy-SL.
Mansaray recently became the first Sierra Leonean to be listed among innovators competing for the Africa Prize for Engineering by the Royal Academy of Engineering UK, just after her latest invention, ‘Smart Green Stone.’ The Smart Green Stove is a fast and efficient non-electric cooking device she designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health risks that greatly affect women and girls in Africa.
Her central target is to educate women and girls, specifically on the role engineering can play in improving their lives.
Hafsatu Rakie Sesay: is a mechanical engineer and certified drone technologist by the Africa Drone and Data Academy in Malawi & Sierra Leone’s first TOP Level 2 licensed female UAV/drone pilot.
Sesay is Sierra Leone’s first female drone engineer who is passionate about solving challenges through the use of STEM. She has worked on several successful projects while working at DSTI and Track Your Build, an engineering company specialising in using drones and satellite data to monitor construction, conduct land surveys, and agricultural crop mapping, and assess damage and risk from natural disasters such as landslides and floods.
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