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YouthActionNet Blog

Women Using #STEM for Change

Lisa Jones | April 8, 2015
Photo by WomEng

On March 8th, more than 1,000 global events took place in celebration of International Women’s Day. This year’s theme, #makeithappen, was a call to action for recognizing and advancing women around the world. YouthActionNet celebrated women’s day by amplifying the voice of Mowmita Basak Mow, a 2014 Laureate Global Fellow who is speaking out against child marriage in Bangladesh. On March 17, we hosted a webinar featuring ‘Kenya’s primary school problem solver,’ 2014 Fellow Peggy Mativo, who discussed her role as a young woman leader in Africa and how she is working to reduce teacher shortages by leveraging Kenya’s youth bulge

But highlighting the work of women one month out of the year is not enough. If we are committed to recognizing and advancing women, it’s important that we share stories about successful women leaders year-round. Today, we share the stories of women who are not only breaking stereotypes of who leaders are, they are blazing trails by applying their skills in the male-dominated STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) to make the world a healthier, better educated, and more connected place.

Naadiya Moosajee: Equipping women to engineer our future

Naadiya is co-founder & CEO of WomEng, a South African-based organization dedicated to developing the next generation of female engineering leaders in Africa. "Women are a global minority in engineering and face various challenges," says Naadiya, who believes that women bring a unique skill set and ideas to the industry. Named TopWomen's 'top NGO in South Africa' in 2013, WomEng addresses the critical skills gap in engineering and provides skill building and development workshops for high school and university students, with more than 5,000 girls reached to date. Additional activities include mentoring high school students, raising awareness of engineering-related careers, and spotlighting technical innovation in engineering. In this TED-X video, Naadiya explains why Africa needs women engineers involved in designing its future



Katy Digovich: Using mobile phones to expand healthcare access

Katy co-founded Positive Innovation for the Next Generation (PING) in Botswana to develop and deploy SMS and web-based health and education tools—from patient-focused apps that help individuals stay on schedule with their medications, to platforms that make it easier for the government to collect and analyze public health data. Today, Katy combines her passions for tech and public health as the mHealth Program Manager for the Clinton Health Access Initiative. How did Katy break into the tech field? “I taught myself by combining a range of online courses and building native Android apps for my personal phone that I needed and still use. At the end of the day, technology should be about solving problems, not about writing lines of code.”




Maria del Refugio González: Making math simple and inclusive

Driven by a desire to make quality mathematics education more inclusive, Maria launched www.math2me.com, a website that offers math classes through step-by-step videos on subjects ranging from arithmetic to integral calculus. The site motivates students to learn through jokes, tricks, fun facts, animations, and special reports. Math2me has a television program that airs in Mexico, and many of its videos have been translated into indigenous languages so that they can be accessed by minority groups. Math2me videos have been viewed more than 92 million times by math learners around the world.






Stephanie Reyes Acevedo: Inspiring a culture of conservation

In order to bring engaging, hands-on science education to children in rural Chilean schools lacking extracurricular resources, Stephanie created Darwin’s Backpack. The backpack is a mobile laboratory and teaching tool with all the necessary equipment for exploring nature through a scientific lens—a microscope, magnifying glasses, binoculars, and a camera, among other tools. In delivering these kits to schools, Stephanie puts the exciting new resource into context for the students by teaching them about environmental and conservation science. By investing in the scientific education of the next generation, Stephanie hopes to foster a culture that values and protects Chile’s natural resources.





Marita Cheng: Changing lives through robotics

As a mechanical engineer and founder of 2Mar Robotics, Marita’s goal is to make robots accessible to the people who need them most. Their first product, the Jeva, is a robot arm to help those with limited upper mobility. The Jeva user can control the arm to move and grip objects using a smartphone, tablet, or headset control, and can save common tasks to be easily repeated again later. Named the 2012 Young Australian of the Year, Marita also founded Robogals, a student-run organization that inspires girls to find their passion in STEM fields through hands-on robotics experience. In just 5 years, Robogals has grown to 18 chapters in 4 countries around the world, and taught robotics to more than 16,000 girls.

These five leaders paving the way for women in the fields of science, math, and technology are also redefining the role of young people in social change, and shifting the narrative on what a social change venture looks like. This year, as YouthActionNet celebrates 15 years of supporting youth-led social entrepreneurship, we are sharing the stories of young people who are approaching social challenges from a fresh perspective—transforming existing fields like art or science into hubs for social impact, using technology creatively, and leveraging the power of volunteers.

Young people, especially women, struggle with being seen as capable leaders even though they are already pioneering solutions and making progress toward solving some of society’s greatest challenges. By amplifying their stories, we join with them to help #makeithappen.

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