An initiative called ‘women in STEM’ was launched on 21 April to promote girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and empower them to contribute towards a sustainable future through STEM education.
The initiative was supported by the Royal Society for STEM (RSSTEM) under His Majesty’s Secretariat. It is a collaborative voluntary initiative for women working in STEM-related fields, across various government and non-government organizations in the country, to promote and empower Bhutanese women and girls in STEM.
According to the Women in STEM group, funds will be sought from international and government agencies, NGOs, corporate institutions, and the private sector to implement activities based on the annual work plan.
With this launch, it expects to enhance research studies on female participation in STEM in Bhutan, increase the representation of women in related careers, and also increase enrollment and innovation by girls and women in these fields.
Yeshi Choden, a space engineer with the Department of Information Technology and Telecom who is one of the founding members of the group, said that STEM is a key element for other sectors to advance.
She said technology is a necessary element of the 21st century as commanded by His Majesty The King.
According to the National Commission for Women and Children, the enrolment of girls in tertiary education stands at 19.1 percent in 2019.
She said that the RSSTEM provides guidance and support to the group and also accords approval and directives to the program or initiatives.
Health Minister, Dasho Dechen Wangmo said during the launch of the program that for the last two years, the country faced a very difficult time because of the pandemic.
“But we have learned that we are very rich in social capital but very poor in human capital,” she said.
Lyonpo said that though this is a small initiative it is a very powerful step that will take the country to the 21st century.
To be a member of the group, individuals can register via google form and members are eligible to attend the programs initiated by the group.
In addition, members can access the platforms provided by the group to share their knowledge and experience and can also get involved in supporting STEM programs or activities.
Today, the group has 34 members with 24 individuals with engineering background, nine individuals from academic, three from architecture and planning, six from ICT, and one from medical background.
The group plans activities such as girls’ STEM camp, STEM festival, STEM forum, and STEM advocacy through their social media handles.
The STEM camp was aimed to inspire girls to embrace science subjects with a view to enhancing their participation in STEM courses and careers.
In addition, the STEM festival is aimed at capturing the interest of students in science and to encourage them to take up science in schools.
Similarly, the forum will bring together women in STEM including researchers, entrepreneurs, and practitioners who will share their innovations and experiences.
The forum would also include tech talks, debates, discussions, blogs, and STEM advocacy through social media as a tool to feature women working in STEM fields and provide them a platform to share their experiences. Various activities such as question-answer sessions and online quizzes will also be included.
The organizer, Wangchuk Bidha from Bhutan NatCom under the Ministry of Education, said this program is the first of its kind in the country.
Considering the success of the last year’s project, a similar program would be organized in the east and will be open to all schools across the country.
The organizers said that they have also approached the Asian Development Bank to fund the program.