Our Chomoza STEM Lab is a space where girls come to explore the world of electronics and everyday science by working with tools, assembling circuits, doing science experiments, making or breaking stuff to understand what makes it tick and above all, by making mistakes fearlessly.
Women’s participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) fields is far behind in almost all countries. We believe that in Tanzania, along with gender discrimination within STEM fields, discrimination based on class, religion and region is directly responsible for the gender gap in science and tech. To close this gap, we started by promoting STEM education among girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in 2016 and challenge the many biases they face.
We have enrolled 200 girls between ages 8 to 19 from two communities across Mwanza City. 93 attend the Chomoza STEM Level 1 group where basic understanding and curiosity on STEM subjects is kindled through hands-on projects. 107 girls have completed Level 1 and 10 have moved to Level 2 where they learn higher tech skills like coding, making electronic projects, hacking solutions for problems they see around them while collaborating with kids across countries and with other technology enthusiasts who come to share their skills.
We try to make knowledge about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects accessible and attractive for the girls by using fun, alternative tools and models. By using tools and building things, the girls get a confidence in their ability and a sense of satisfaction.
We ran a study in five government schools and one private school followed by workshops to answer - What were the reasons for girls from an underprivileged background not choosing STEM courses, especially Science and Maths ? The key findings were, Girls are unable to develop an interest or aptitude for STEM owing to parental pressure to drop out of education or pursue arts, home science and other “feminine” streams, lack of infrastructural support in schools, lack of role models in STEM fields and discouragement from teachers.
The study also revealed that pressure of household chores and restrictions on mobility was not allowing girls to explore their potential. Home and school work hand-in-hand and increase a girl’s fear for subjects like science and maths. This leads her to believe that these are subjects meant only for boys to study and excel in.
The Chomoza STEM Lab runs as a safe, educative space to create the change we want to see in our community and society. In spite of challenges of funds, girls dropping out, non-acceptance by community members as our girls were becoming confident, mobile and independent, we have been striving ahead. After 3 years of hard work, it is going so well that six of the girls have stopped taking private tuition classes after school because they feel their understanding of concepts has improved due to the Chomoza STEM Lab. The Chomoza STEM Lab is so popular in the community that parents, who were earlier skeptical, now take immense pride on their daughters achievements and take interest in everything that the girls learn.