Power Africa Celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science
In 1948, a house was built that the newspapers called, “The House of the Day After Tomorrow.” The home in Dover, Massachusetts was the first in the world to be heated solely with solar energy, an innovation that would not have been possible without the work of biophysicist Maria Telkes. Telkes was a prolific inventor who earned the nickname “Sun Queen” for her inventions of practical thermal devices.
Decades later and oceans away, Kenyan born Charity Wanjiku and Daisy Karimi are building their own version of the “House of the Day After Tomorrow.” Charity and Daisy use Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) solar cells that can be easily integrated into functional parts of residential and commercial construction. With these innovative designs, the walls, windows and roofs of new homes serve as solar panels, generating electricity for today’s solar homes.
February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrating women’s past achievements and bringing to light the women and girls who are current trailblazers in these fields. Power Africa’s Women in Africa Power (WiAP), brings together women working in the energy sector, including engineers, who are promoting innovations to address the continent’s energy access challenges. Members like Charity and Daisy contribute to creating an environment that encourages women and girls’ full participation in the sector by increasing interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and providing young professionals with role models.
Despite these inspiring successes, globally, only 28 percent of science researchers are women. With STEM education serving as a pathway to energy careers, it is important to encourage young African girls to excel in these fields.
To increase this number, WiAP member Sandra Tererai founded Taungana, a movement that connects rural high school girls to STEM educational opportunities and mentorship networks. Today, Taungana has reached more than 900 high school students across 22 provinces in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This program has inspired Onelisiwe Mxhosana, a student from South Africa, to design a product that can be used to quickly extinguish household fires — which are common in temporary structure rural and urban settlements, and homes that rely on fires for cooking. Lydia Kundidzora, a student from Zimbabwe, designed a coal and charcoal water filter to provide households with safer drinking water supplies.
Lucky Okudo, another WiAP member, is the CEO and Founder of Women in Energy and Extractives Africa (WEX), an organization providing education and training for women in the energy and extractive sectors. WEX has equipped over 5000 young girls from 30 schools in Kenya with greater exposure to STEM courses through counselling and career talks, and with tools such as mathematical sets and science books. WEX has also offered scholarships, career coaching and internship opportunities to young women.
As we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we invite you to join the WiAP network and help us further promote women and girls engagement in Africa’s energy sector. Please contact Denise Mortimer for information about WiAP (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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In 2013, Power Africa was launched, bringing together technical and legal experts, the private sector, and governments from around the world to work in partnership to increase the number of people with access to power. Power Africa’s goal is to add more than 30,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections. Women in African Power (WiAP) is an initiative supported by Power Africa because promoting gender equality and female empowerment is a critical component of electrifying Africa.
To learn more, visit https://www.usaid.gov/powerafrica.