AIMS Launches Ground-breaking Initiative to Promote Women in STEM in Africa

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The Next Einstein Forum, which took place from March 8-10 in Dakar Senegal, announced the launch of an exciting new program: the AIMS Women in STEM (AIMSWIS) Initiative on International Women’s Day at the opening of the first ever global gathering of scientists and policy makers on African soil.

Founded by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) this unique pan-African program contributes to the realization of the SDGs 2030, Agenda 2063, STISA 2014, CESA 2025 by accelerating progress for women in STEM across Africa.

The first AIMSWIS Consultative meeting, took place in Dakar on March 7th, successfully brought together 50 participants to discuss and validate the need for a pan-African Agenda for Women in STEM, supported by specific priorities that the AIMSWIS Initiative should focus on moving forward.

Participants

The meeting welcomed representatives from the African Union Commission, the Government of Senegal, the Human Sciences Research Council (South Africa), Johnson & Johnson, QueeS Capital LLC, International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the ElSavier Foundation. The following NGOs were also represented: Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), African Academics for Research for Women, The Visiola Foundation, WAAW Foundation, COACh, Jjiguene Tech, African Maths Science Technology, Research Foundation (AMSTREF), Addgene and the Consortium of African Diasporas in the United States (CADUS). The University of Pretoria and University of Berkley also participated, as did esteemed prizing winning scientists – Professor Rose Leke (Winner of the Nkrumah Award) and Dr Nasha Eassa, 2015 Winner of Elsevier Women Scientist Award also attended.

Conclusions

The consultation meeting discussions resulted in four key conclusions, which ultimately validated the urgent need for a program such as the AIMSWIS Initiative:

  • African needs a shared pan-African agenda on Women in STEM with specific priority actions that a variety of institutional actors and stakeholders can implement and report against jointly towards a common goal.
  • Existing systems of data collection on Women in STEM across Africa need to be strengthened, expanded and harmonized to support comparable reporting at national, regional and pan-African levels.
  • Women’s career pathways in STEM must be strengthened through effective and accessible career development supports and increasingly women and parent-friendly STEM work environments.
  • In order to close the gender gap in STEM in Africa, a wide variety of institutional leaders and stakeholders must be engaged to institutionalize changes in the status quo across policies, practices and culture.

Recommendations for priorities

Expanding upon these conclusions, the consultative meeting also clarified specific priorities for the AIMSWIS Initiative, which included:

  • Mapping the Women in STEM landscape at national, regional and pan-African levels.
  • Promoting dialogue and collaboration among Women in STEM partners to amplify collective reach and impact
  • Addressing the need for comparable, reliable, sex-disaggregated data and statistics on women’s participation and leadership across the STEM pipeline in Africa
  • Influencing policy change by providing decision-makers in governments, academia, industry and civil society with evidence-based recommendations for action
  • Sourcing funds for innovative programs that promote Women in STEM and enabling best practice programs and models to be brought to scale.
  • Promoting a holistic approach to gender equality in STEM by engaging men and boys and promoting gender sensitive science.

What is next for AIMSWIS?

A Global Advisory AIMSWIS Group will be established to provide strategic direction for AIMSWIS Initiative, comprising of representatives from International and Pan-African organizations including the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, the African Economic Commission, UN Women, government representatives, private sector, academia, women scientists, among others.

To support implementation of the AIMSWIS Initiative, an AIMSWIS Taskforce will also be established, comprising of African stakeholders such as FAWE, African Academy of Sciences, WAAW foundation, the African Academies for Research for Women, among others.

Was the AIMSWIS launch a success? Has the AIMSWIS Initiative taken off after the NEF?

The AIMSWIS consultative meeting was a first step in validating the establishment of the AIMSWIS Initiative. It was a great success as the deliberations and discussions on Women in STEM continued during the workshop and also beyond into the NEF discussions with the following concrete successes:

  • The AIMSWIS meeting enabled African Women in STEM actors to situate their work within international and continental frameworks.
  • The African Union among other participants was very supportive of the AIMSWIS Initiative and indeed, noted that this was both a timely and much needed Initiative for Africa.
  • The AIMSWIS meeting resulted in new and strengthened partnerships between organizations working to promoting Women in STEM across Africa. For example, the following day, on March 8th, AIMS and FAWE had a signing ceremony on IWD to celebrate a partnership to promote women in STEM.
  • A vibrant and diverse community of practice on Women in STEM was established as a result of the development of a common agenda with a shared purpose, generating a sense of shared direction and shared ownership to move forward.
  • The AIMSWIS Initiative helped raise the profile of some of the participants who, as a result of their increased profile, were noticed and invited to work more closely with the national delegations such as the Nigerian Ministry of Science and Technology who had also attended the NEF.
  • The AIMSWIS Initiative influenced the NEF by ‘making women more visible’ across the NEF presentations and discussions – almost all presentations and speeches delivered at the NEF addressed the role of women in STEM and the need to support, motivate, reward and engage them. This was partly in celebration of International Women’s Day but also in acknowledgement of the AIMSWIS Initiative and its goals.
  • In terms of mobilizing national resources, the government of Senegal pledged to increase investments in Women in STEM aiming to eventually surpass the 50% gender balance in STEM.
  • There are ongoing requests beyond AIMS and the NEF to participate in and support the AIMSWIS Initiative – from individuals, institutions, donors etc.
  • There were a number of NEF Ambassadors at the AIMSWIS Initiative who found the session and the vision of AIMSWIS so appealing that they have requested additional information and the opportunity to support and contribute to the AIMSWIS Initiative.

Conclusion

Having achieved a consensus among sample of stakeholders about the need for AIMSWIS Initiative, AIMS is now looking forward to organizing the next AIMSWIS Initiative meeting around the margins of upcoming large continental events such as the World Economic Forum Africa, the African Union Summit, among others.

For more information on AIMSWIS, please contact:

Karen Craggs-Milne
Director of Gender Equality and Inclusion, AIMS Global Network
Kcraggs@nexteinstein.org

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