The United Nations shared results from a study that says only 18% of females will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in a science-related field. Compare that to the 37% of males who will achieve that and you can understand why it’s important to encourage women to enter the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (commonly known as STEM). Here are 5 South African women and girls who are working to reduce the gap between males and females in the STEM disciplines.
You very likely have seen the colourful Wonderbag around. Durban-born Sarah Collins, together with poverty activist Moshy Mathe, created the alternative cooker more than 10 years ago when Eskom implemented loadshedding. The non-electric heat-retention cooker is said to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated half a ton per year if used three times a week. In 2018, Sarah received the Woman of the Decade in Entrepreneurship Award at the World Economic Forum and Time magazine ranked the company one of the 50 most genius companies in the world.
When Knysna was ablaze in 2017, a 17-year-old learner from Welkom came up with a solution, which she entered into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. Gabriella’s idea is to create fire-resistant shacks. Cement-based paint solution would be painted on the outside of the structure to prevent the fire from spreading and a mixture of recyclable substances would be painted on the inside of the structure (which would also insulate the shack during winter).
Brittany and her team from the Meta Economic Development Organisation (MEDO) space programme is behind South Africa’s first privately owned satellite into space. They hope that the satellite will provide information on changing weather patterns. Through this, food scarcity and disaster management in Africa could be improved.
Madelien was one of eight South African women to be recognised at the L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Awards last year. She is trying to discover what it is about the chemical compounds on our skin that attracts mosquitos. If she finds the answer, we’ll be able to develop outdoor mosquito traps so that fewer humans are bitten and the spread of malaria is minimised.
Another award winner from the L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Awards, Lerato is from the University of Cape Town's pathology department. Her work focuses specifically on tuberculosis (TB) and she hopes it will result in the development of an inhalable drug for the treatment of the infectious disease.
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