Friday, January 18, 2019

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics at Sambhali Trust

Text: Linda Roemer
Photos: Linda Roemer & Nicole Karpus


The number of women in science and technology is growing, yet men continue to dominate in this field, especially at the upper levels in these professions. That's why 11 members of the Society of Women Engineers recently came to Jodhpur to conduct science workshops for the women and children in our empowerment centres for a duration of two weeks. The organization based in the United States aims to make use of women's full potential in careers such as engineers and leaders.


Besides playing maths games, our women and children built towers made of straws and constructed paper airplanes as well as kites - a definite prove that women can indeed be successful in science!

I asked Ricka, Jessie, Celina and Meghan from the Society of Women Engineers about their intentions, expectations and lessons learned at the end of their work with Sambhali Trust.


How did you come up with the idea of implementing STEM at Sambhali Trust?

Meghan: We thought going abroad would be a good opportunity because we do not have much international outreach. Sambhali Trust stood out to me because we wanted to do something about women’s empowerment and women’s education – and it fit our objectives and goals very clearly. Women empowerment is very strongly supported in the Society of Women Engineers.

Jessie: The reason I joined the Society of Women Engineers is because I wanted to be part of a community that empowered women. STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – is such a male-dominated field, so having a community that empowers each other was very important to me.

Ricka: Connecting STEM and women empowerment on a global scale is something very important indeed. I thought to myself: How can we go and help other women, in other countries, who also feel that there is a problem with women representation in STEM?


Did you have any expectations on how it would be, specifically concerning the women at Sambhali Trust, with regards to their interest and capabilities in science?

Ricka: We didn’t know a lot before coming here, and this helped us keep an open mind. We didn’t know what it is like for them, but we were open to learning how they live, how they work, what their interests are, and what they want from us. They all have different goals in life. I wouldn’t say that all of them are super interested in going into science, but they all have dreams which they are fighting for.

 

Overall, what kind of workshops did you implement with the women and children?

Ricka: We built towers out of straws and tape with the women – we divided them in smaller groups and turned it into a small competition. With the younger ones, we built paper airplanes and kites. We also practiced the different shapes with the kids – which basically is something that you need every day. We wanted to show to all of them: Hey, there is science around us. Also, very important are the skills that you use. Many of them are planning to be a doctor, or a policewoman – where you still have to use a lot of the skills that were important in our STEM workshops: Teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, planning and designing.

Celina: I was doing the workshop at the Fatima empowerment centre, and I was amazed about how quickly everyone got into it. Everyone was participating and had a lot of fun supporting each other in solving the tasks. It is good to show that there is an option, that women can go into science, that we can go this path.

Jessie: What I loved the most was their passion for learning. That’s the one thing we all have in common: We all want to learn. And sometimes, being in a different country, gives you a bigger picture of what types of opportunities there are – and Sambhali Trust gives opportunities to them, it opens new doors for them.

 

If you were to come to India with the Society of Women Engineers again, would you do things differently? Do you have more ideas of what you would like to bring across to them in the future?

Celina: Now we have a better idea of what we have here, the basis. We can plan more thoroughly and have more time now to come up with a few more activities that could be helpful.

Ricka: Now that we know what their specific interests and skills are, we can plan more to help them reach their goals.


What did you learn from your work with Sambhali Trust?

Jessie: I just want to thank Sambhali Trust, for giving us the opportunity to come here. It is not only that they are learning from us, we are also learning from them. Being part of the work of Sambhali Trust was very eye-opening. We in America take education for granted sometimes – and there are so many people out there who do not have the chance to pursue a higher education. It has given me so much to think about, what I should be grateful for. Also, there is a lot of media discussion about the negativity of India, and we are able to bring back the positive sides of it, and thus have a positive impact on our country as well.

Ricka: We came here to teach them, and share what we know with them. But in a lot of ways, we were actually learning a lot from them too. It is a two-way exchange for sure. I hope that they are taking the STEM problem solving and teamwork with them to wherever they want to go in life.



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