Preparing Girls for the Future with STEM and Entrepreneurial Projects

DFW’s $100,000 grant to the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund in support of girls’ education will fund four anchor activities – all of which help girls by removing social and structural barriers that prevent access to education. Over the last few months, we have discussed two of them: GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camps and Clubs and Men as Partners (MAP) projects. This month, our focus is on two additional activities: STEM Projects for Girls as well as Business and Entrepreneurial Training for Girls.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is critical to creating a ready, qualified workforce around the globe, and girls must be part of that future. The goal of STEM Projects for Girls is to inspire girls to pursue careers in these fields. Activities teach them the value of science, enhance their education in STEM and equip them with the tools they need to share that knowledge in their communities.

STEM Projects for Girls are targeted to the needs of different locales and may include activities such as these:

  • – Camp Scientifille is a youth camp specifically designed to promote a love of science in young girls. Girls learn the value of science through hands-on experiments and sessions. Through the camps and development of follow-up science clubs in home communities, the goal is also to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
  • – Let Girls Learn Hackathons are collaborations between students, Peace Corps Volunteers, university students in STEM fields and software developers who brainstorm and develop innovative solutions to overcome local barriers to female education. These solutions utilize technology, software and websites. Participating girls receive ongoing support for implementing the solutions generated at Hackathons.
  • – Math and science conferences address factors that contribute to poor math and science scores and the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. These conferences inform teachers about using hands-on techniques in the classroom, expose students to new topics and encourage them to pursue further education in the sciences.

Business and Entrepreneurial Training for Girls, much like STEM projects, may take the form of camps, clubs, competitions, seminars or workshops. Participants leave these experiences with enhanced business skills, increased confidence, an understanding of the creative process necessary to be an entrepreneur and a better understanding of how they can uniquely contribute to their community and its economy.

Business professionals and Peace Corps Volunteers facilitate sessions and projects tailored to the needs of local communities. Projects such as these include:

  • – A National Youth Business Plan Training and Competition, held in Benin, is designed to ensure that young people have the skills necessary to create their own enterprises. In particular, this initiative provides females, who are frequently excluded from entrepreneurship training, an opportunity to present and use their skills. Participants create and then compete with their own business plans, with the chance to win prize money to help start their business.
  • – Village to City projects, like the one funded by DFW in Mongolia, equip the brightest and most ambitious students with the necessary knowledge to become future leaders. Exposure to female leaders empowers female students to see and internalize the possibility of becoming leaders in their communities. Students travel from rural villages to commercial companies to engage in discussions with company leaders. They also participate in workshops to develop professionalism, networking, goal setting, decision making and action planning skills. By the end of the week, students have successfully begun creating their own professional network. Students then work with adult supervisors to create a presentation to take back to their respective communities. They show everyone that, while they may be from a small village, they have the world within their reach.