Zimbabwe making strides in attracting women into science and tech fields

By Kudzai Chikiwa

ZIMBABWE has improved women in Science enrolment as it moves towards its zero discrimination agenda in higher and tertiary institutions, a Cabinet minister has said.

Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said enrolment of women in tertiary institutions is almost at par with their male counterparts which shows a gender balance in higher education.

“Compared to the past years where the science field was stereo-typically made a male dominated path, we have improved female enrolment which l can tell that it’s now almost 50/50 at most tertiary institutions.

“Generally in teachers’ colleges, the ratio is now 70 women to 30 men which on its own reflect women empowerment. At the University of Zimbabwe for example, the ratio is 52 females as to 48 women,” he said.

Prof Murwira said gender is a social construction that should not deter women from reaching greater heights in science education.

“It is society that stereotyped male and females but my argument is that the two have similar brains. Issues of gender should not be a limiting factor. Sciences are just a subject they only take determination and dedication not gender, race or religion,” he said.

Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister said his ministry abides by the University Act which has no discrimination clauses.

“Our thrust is to see every Zimbabwean and every student at our tertiary institution getting equal opportunities to realise their dreams. This is included in the University Act which is our guiding charter,” he said.

Prof Murwira urged tertiary institutions to encourage enrollment of women who have been lagging behind in the past.

“Our tertiary institutions should be sensitive when recruiting students so that everyone gets an equal opportunity. Women should be equally treated as their male counterparts. My philosophy says if people were born equally, let them grow equally,” he said.

Prof Murwira encouraged women to take advantage of equality in higher and tertiary institution.

“l want to challenge all women to be brave enough to break social barriers. There is nowhere where it is written that sciences are for men, it takes their courage and thirst to excel,” he said.

Meanwhile, gender activists have said embracing gender balance in science education should start at grassroots and develop up to tertiary institutions.

“We need the girl child to be introduced to sciences at secondary level which is the foundation .When teachers are selecting students to be in Science, Commercials or Arts class, they should be gender sensitive. In a class of 20 pupils, let’s have at least ten girls also so that empowerment starts at grassroots,” said Ms Tsitsi Mashiri.

She said since the world is now technologically driven, women should not feel inferior to venture in the science field as it is becoming the backbone of the economy.

“There is nothing that man can do which we cannot do. Gender is just a social construction but it cannot stop us from competing with our male counterparts. Let’s not drag behind in terms of technology,” she said.

Ennie Somerai , a female student doing   Electronic  Engineering at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) and is the president for Girl Child Empowerment Zimbabwe (GCEZ) at the university said it is critical for women to embrace sciences as they are a backbone of the economy.

“Most SMEs are being led by women and they make good leaders. Women are full of potential and just need exposure to showcase what they are capable of. 

We appreciate Government efforts in observing gender equality in the field but we call for more involvement of students from secondary level,” she said.

Somerai said tertiary students should go to high schools and encourage young girls to take up science subjects.

“Us who are already in the field should have workshops where we go and inspire our young ones. If they see one of their own making it in life they easily get inspired. Many girls are flooding commercials and arts because they have a phobia for sciences. But they need to be told that pursuing science is worth it,”she said.

The United Nations General Assembly on the women in science international day highlighted that science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.