The female Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) brought together 180 female undergraduates from nine tertiary institutions across the country, with the aim of giving women a future in the energy sector.

Students of Bayero University Kano (BUK) are still basking in the euphoria of winning N1 million for coming tops in the first ever Female Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which held in Lagos on November 27 and 28. They emerged victorious at the keenly contested competition where 180 female undergraduates from nine tertiary institutions across the country gathered. Their efforts earned them N1 million cash prize.

It would be recalled that when the first inauguration of solar hybrid power plant at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (FUNAI), in Ebonyi State, which featured the graduation of 20 all-female STEM participants who received certificates of completion for renewable energy training, held last August, a guest remarked: “You may literally say that the future of the energy sector belongs to women.”

The FUNAI power was one of the Energising Education Programmes (EEP) phase one university projects meant to deliver clean and sustainable energy to nine federal universities and one University Teaching Hospital, using solar hybrid and/or gas-fired captive power plants.

Commending the Federal Government’s effort to promote and encourage women, Vice-President Oluyemi Osinbajo praised the Damilola Ogunbiyi-led administration at Rural Electrification Agency (REA) for initiating the female STEM internship under the EEP.

“We hope that this experience will inspire them to undertake STEM-related careers, including careers as engineers and project managers. I congratulate all of them on this great achievement,” the Vice-President said.

He continued: Today, the programme has impacted lives as over 180 students from nine universities have been trained under the programme. The REA STEM impact is real under the leadership of its current Managing Director, Damilola Ogunbiyi.

“Again, the Buhari administration is committed to female empowerment and under the Energising Education Programme (EEP) where 180 Female STEM students have been trained to acquire skills to design power systems to meet desired economic, environmental, social, ethical and sustainability needs; gain knowledge of contemporary issues and the ability to work with multi-disciplinary teams; apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering techniques. “

The female STEM Internship Programme under the EEP was aimed at promoting the participation of young women in STEM-related courses and careers.

Over the past months, REA had developed a Female STEM Internship Programme, under the Energising Education Programme (EEP), which begun with 180 female students across the nine universities getting training and on-site experience in designing and constructing power systems by world-class contractors.

The goal of the initiative is not only to help young female students academically, but to expose and encourage more women to take interest and participate in the power sector, especially renewable energy.

The two-day gathering in Lagos was the first STEM workshop that brought professionals under the same roof. The workshop was organised by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in partnership with leading private sector developers and was attended by stakeholders in the power sector and business professionals. The gathering aimed at bringing together young women with top power sector and business professionals to share knowledge and discuss the opportunities for women in the industry.

Enumerating the benefits accruable from the energy sector, the organisers of the workshop believed that development of the renewable energy sector, advocating for energy efficiency and productivity may lead to numerous job and business opportunities throughout Nigeria. Women, who are often under-represented within this sector, have great roles to play in the development of sustainable projects that add value to the socio-economic development of the country.

While encouraging women to see themselves beyond the flowers around the table, they noted that the workshop became imperative because it is important to continue to show young women the realities ahead of them, while also creating a platform to facilitate the increase in leadership and development of young women involved in the Nigerian energy sector and beyond.

The conference featured panel discussions and keynote speeches from respected professionals in the energy sector. The conference also provided a platform for students and professionals to network, share knowledge, discuss achievements and encourage the advancement of women across all facets of the industry.

The two-day workshop helped STEM students to understand the African energy sector and the career potential for women, created an awareness of senior roles in the marketplace acquired by women, brought an approach towards assimilating a new generation of female leaders into energy and related companies, to understand the major challenges women face in business and politics and network for potential mentoring and job opportunities.

The discussions focused on reality of the challenges, overcoming diversity and seizing opportunities threw light on what to expect as they embrace the larger society in the pursuit of their careers and the diverse challenges women face in the workspace, ability to be able to notice opportunities before them and having the confidence and ability to seize them.

Minister of State for Power Goddy Jedy-Agba said: “I feel honoured to be at the transformative milestone event that celebrates and motivates our young women.”

Continuing, he said: “The Energising Education Programme (EEP), which was approved by President Buhari in 2016, has so far produced a total of 9.9MW of electricity through independent power plants across three university project sites (Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi and Bayero University, Kano respectively).

“The achievements were possible through development and execution of strategic policies initiated by the Ministry of Power in coordination with REA. These policies have supported and enabled federal universities to host off-grid power plants.

“A core part of the Energising Education Programme is the practical and technical training of 20 female STEM students at each beneficiary university. This is where policy meets gender mainstreaming in the power sector and specifically on electrification projects.

“To the young women, who have participated in the STEM Internship Programme, I want you to know that gender and social exclusion will soon be a thing of the past. As a government, we are working to ensure that we mitigate the plight of women and promote equality and inclusiveness across all sectors.

“We cannot hope to reform the power sector without the skills, innovation and expertise of our women. That is why the importance of events such as the one we are having today cannot be overemphasised. I, therefore, urge you to take charge of your future and make good use of the platform that has been established for you.”

Jedy-Agba commended Ogunbiyi and her team for their zeal in executing the EEP and the enthusiasm in empowering Nigerian youth especially, talented young women.

Ogunbiyi expressed her delight at the first edition of the Energising Education Programme STEM workshop.

He said: “This workshop was designed to facilitate the increase in leadership and development of professional women. It is also a platform for the 180 female students and professionals present to network, share their knowledge, discuss achievements and encourage the advancement of women across the energy sector.

“The Female STEM Students’ Internship Programme is very dear to my heart. What seemed like a dream is being actualised today – young women receiving the necessary skills needed to transform the Nigerian power sector. I hope this will be a catalyst for many more gender-based events in the Nigerian energy sector.

“There is no gainsaying that gender inclusiveness forms the core of what we do at the Rural Electrification Agency. This is evident in the increased number of women in Senior Management roles under my leadership, from just one to six.”

He added: “Currently, there are 25 female Project Managers working across different REA initiatives. In addition, tendering companies under the REA Nigeria Electrification Project are expected to have at least 30 per cent female employment rate to qualify.

“To further push REA’s gender agenda, the Energising Education Female STEM Internship Programme was initiated as part of the Energising Education Programme (EEP); an initiative of the Federal Government which was aimed at providing clean, safe and reliable electricity to 37 federal universities and affiliated university teaching hospitals.

“The focus of the internship programme is to provide hands-on training to 20 female students offering STEM-related courses in each of the EEP universities, beginning with 180 female students across nine universities under Phase 1 of the programme. These hardworking female students are here with us today.”

He thanked the Buhari-led Federal Government for continuing to facilitate environments that empower Nigerian woman with all she needs to become a world changer. She also thanked the Federal Ministries, especially the Ministry of Power, for their efforts in integrating gender into their policy formation and governance of the sector.

She encouraged the STEM female participants to make the best use of the opportunity the workshop presented as they embrace their careers. The final activity of the workshop was the Project Shark Tank competition between the participating universities where students of Bayero University, Kano emerged first and won a cash prize of N1 million.

 

The Nation

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