As part of the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s ‘Iconic Week’ celebrating the International Women’s Day under the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, UNICEF YuWaah facilitated the #NaariShakti conversation, on ‘STEM and Financial Literacy for Young Women’. The event was graced by Smt Smriti Zubin Irani, Union Minister for Women and Child Development. Other participants included Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Government of India, Shri Indevar Pandey, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Dr. Nisha Mendiratta, Advisor, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Head, Programme Divisions of Women In Science and Engineering (WISE_ KIRAN) and Climate Change Programme (CCP), Dr. Rajendra Kumar AS MeiTY, Mr Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF Representative in India and Dhuwarakha Sriram, Chief of Generation Unlimited (YuWaah), Youth Development and Partnerships at UNICEF India. Furthermore, adolescent girls from different parts of India joined the event, and many more participated virtually. This included the participation of adolescent girls who shared their experiences, aspirations and suggestions on gender equality in STEM and Financial Literacy for young women.
The event started with the panel on ‘Young Women in STEM: Opportunities, Challenges and Solutions’ focused on uniting diverse voices and sparking a commitment to gender equality in STEM. The panel had Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Dr. Nisha Mendiratta, Head, Programme Divisions of Women In Science and Engineering (WISE_ KIRAN) and Climate Change Programme (CCP), Dr. Rajendra Kumar and shri Indevar Pandey discussed how we can nurture young women to form an interest in science, to pursue higher studies and careers in STEM related fields, etc. moderated by Dhuwarakha Sriram. The panel also discussed the importance of women’s participation in STEM and benefits to India’s economic and social growth along with the Government Programs promoting women’s participation in STEM.
Union Minister Smriti Zubin Irani interacted with young girls from civil society, NGOs and SHGs and two students from Atal Tinkering Lab, NITI Aayog on the need for STEM education and Financial Literacy for girls and young women, encouraging them to pursue STEM careers and focus on financial literacy. This was followed by an immersion session by Neha Nagar, Entrepreneur, Investor and Finance Social Media Influencer on ‘Financial Literacy for girls and women’.
Speaking on the occasion, Smt Irani said ‘We need to do better in our conversations around STEM. We need to encourage young girls to actively take part in scholastic & academic events, explore virtual labs, pursue science for the sake of excellence in science from the perspective of research, as much as we encourage our young boys. And the focus has to be driven at a primary stage in order to achieve the desired results.’
Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Govt of India mentioned, ‘Women have contributed immensely in the field of STEM, yet unfortunately there is a small percentage of women that have gained recognition for their contributions. Recently, we have started to acknowledge their efforts which is a stepping stone towards a better, more inclusive workspace culture. We also need to introduce more programs in the field so that more and more young women can actively participate in the process of development.’
Shri Indevar Pandey, Secretary, Ministry of WCD said ‘Young women face various social, cultural barriers regularly. The preconceived notion of women either being less capable to take up more technical subjects like STEM is deeply rooted in our society as such it creates a mind block in our young women, ultimately affecting their choices of careers. Parents and academicians must use gender-inclusive choice of words while addressing such situations, in order to not give rise to any biases.’
Dr. Nisha Mendiratta, Advisor, Department of Science and Technology (DST) said, ‘Science and Gender Equality are both very vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed upon SDGs, including the 2030 agenda. In this aspect, boosting the number of women and young girls entering careers in STEM is crucial for the overall development of any nation. We need to actively start creating programs to empower young women and better utilise their potential.’
Dr. Rajendra Kumar AS MeiTY, highlighted ‘Of the 5 Million professionals in the IT sector in India, about 36% are women. The digital world is where we have seen increased participation from women, and we hope to encourage this trend further.’
Mr Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF Representative in India said, ‘More girls studying and working in STEM, and how we enable STEM access to the most marginalised girls will be the test of our success, especially as India enters a period of demographic transition to a 1 billion strong working age population. It is the full and equal participation of women that will turn India’s transition into a demographic dividend.’