How female empowerment can stimulate economic growth, employment
•BUK students win N1m at REA’s all-female STEM workshop
Recently, leading players in the nation’s power sector and other professionals gathered in Lagos. The event was the first female Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workshop organised by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in partnership with some private sector developers.
The two-day gathering, held between November 27 and November 28, brought 180 female undergraduates from nine tertiary institutions across the country under the same roof with notable professionals in the power sector. The undergraduates were tutored and mentored by the many professionals in attendance.
In the words of the organisers, the development of the renewable energy sector would create innumerable opportunities in the country, especially for the womenfolk. It was agreed that women, seen as being underrepresented in the power sector, have great roles to play in the development of sustainable projects that add to Nigeria’s socio-economic development.
The organisers explained that the workshop was quite important, noting that it was meant to show to the undergraduate participants the opportunities in the power sector, as well as to boost the development of young women involved in the Nigerian energy sector.
The conference featured panel discussions and keynote speeches from respected professionals connected to 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.
At the workshop, the female STEM students were made to understand the African energy sector and the career potential for women. The workshop also exposed the STEM students to leading roles being played by women in the energy sector. They were also made to understand the major challenges women face in business and politics. The event was a veritable platform for potential mentoring and job opportunities.
Discussions at the workshop, it was gathered, focused, among others, on the reality of the challenges, overcoming diversity and seizing opportunities. The female STEM students were made to know what to expect as they embrace the larger society in the pursuit of their careers. There were discussions on the inevitable diversity that women face in the workspace, ability to be able to notice opportunities in front of them and having the confidence and ability to seize them, among others.
Minister of State for Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba said the Energizing Education Programme (EEP), which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016, had so far produced electricity through independent captive power plants for some federal universities, including Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi and Bayero University, Kano.
“The achievements of this programme, thus far, are possible, thanks to the 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 Energizing 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.”
The minister told the young women participating in the STEM Internship Programme that gender and social exclusion would soon be a thing of the past.
His words: “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 like the one we are having today cannot be overemphasized. I therefore urge you to take charge of your future and make good use of the platform that has been established for you.”
The minister commended the Managing Director/CEO of the Rural Electrification Agency, Damilola Ogunbiyi and her team for their zeal in executing the EEP and the enthusiasm in empowering Nigerian youth, specifically, talented young women.
Also speaking, Ogunbiyi expressed delight at the success of the first edition of the Energizing Education Programme STEM Workshop.
“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.
“As you all know, the Female STEM Students Internship Programme is very dear to my heart. What seemed like a dream is being actualized 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 (REA). This is evident in the increased number of women in senior management roles under my leadership, from just one to six. Currently, there are a total of 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 as eligible.
“As part of the drive to foster female participation in the power sector, REA flagged off a gender-focused workshop in collaboration with the USAID Nigeria Power Sector Programme, aimed at bringing together women in the power sector to drive the conversation and initiatives on gender inclusiveness.
“To further push REA’s gender agenda, the Energizing Education Female STEM Internship Programme was initiated, as part of the Energizing Education Programme (EEP) an initiative of the Federal Government 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 females are seated here with us today.”
Ogunbiyi thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government for facilitating environments that empower the Nigerian woman with all that 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 embraced their careers.
The final activity of the workshop was the Project Shark Tank competition between the participating universities. Students of Bayero University, Kano emerged first and went home with a prize of N1million.