February 11 – Women and girls in many parts of Africa are breaking new ground in the sciences with help from Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), as the world marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science today (Feb 11).
Numerous studies from the United Nations and academic institutions have proven that investment in women spurs economic growth and promotes sustainable development, yet only one in three science and engineering researchers in the world is a woman.
According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, “Structural and societal barriers prevent women and girls from entering and advancing in science”.
He said this inequality was “depriving our world of enormous untapped talent and innovation”.
“We need women’s perspectives to make sure science and technology work for everyone.”
CCBA Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Director, Tshidi Ramogase, said CCBA was committed to playing its part in promoting the advancement of women in the sciences.
“Because women are integral to our continent’s shared success, we seek to empower women and girls throughout our markets on the continent,” Ramogase said.
For example, in Ghana, CCBA subsidiary Voltic GH Limited joined the non-profit organisation Girls in Science and Technology (GIST) to launch the GIST- University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa chapter.
The programme introduces GIST to woman students at the university and promotes their participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), while sparking their interest in the endless career opportunities available to them.
The programme also provides mentorship and guidance to girls from elementary school through to various universities.
Meanwhile, schoolgirls in Takoradi, a town in Ghana, got a taste of a future in science and technology when they took part in a robotics training session sponsored by Voltic last year.
The 64 girls between ages 15 and 19 enjoyed a hands-on lesson in robot building aimed at inspiring them to pursue further studies and a career in the male-dominated STEM fields.
CCBA in South Africa (CCBSA) has established a bursary fund at the University of Pretoria to support female students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds in their final year of engineering studies.
The students had their outstanding fees fully paid, which enabled them to graduate.
The beneficiaries were studying towards Electrical, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering degrees.
CCBSA also supports an e-learning system which remotely connects students from rural and underperforming schools all over South Africa to an online learning network.
Known as the Ligbron E- Learning System (LES), it is primarily designed to help improve mathematics and science marks for Grade 11 and 12 learners. It also goes a long way in assisting the teachers with additional teaching. Lessons are shared by using video conferencing and desktop sharing. Learners can take the work home and revise it as often as is needed.
Last year, CCBA in Mozambique recruited only female graduates, including in the fields of Mechatronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Transportation, Mechanical Engineering and Informatics and Telecommunication Engineering.
The company established partnerships with public and private universities across the country and signed a partnership with a non-profit organisation, Field Ready, to support the recruitment and selection of talented graduates in training.
The graduates each have a one-year contact and need to develop a project or more in each function according to the needs of the function, with some focusing on resolving operational issues and others developing custom apps.
In Namibia, half the students recruited into CCBA Namibia’s Graduate Internship Training programme were female. They will be intensively trained, coached and exposed to various functions and will be expected to bring new ideas, innovation, passion and drive to the company. The programme runs over 12 months, after which the opportunity exists to be considered for a permanent placement in the company.
Referring to the successes of CCBA’s woman empowerment programmes, Ramogase said: “By investing in women’s economic empowerment, we have created shared value in hopes of a better shared future – enabling improved livelihoods for women, their families and their communities, while inclusively expanding our business.”