International Day of Women and Girls in Science
I am Generation Equality: Kyzzhibek Batyrkanova, leader of Kyrgyzstan’s first Space Programme
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
I am Generation Equality because…
Women face so many barriers, challenges and stereotypes at home, work, and public life. When you are a woman in science, the challenges are multiplied. Women and girls are expected to behave, look, and express themselves in a certain way. Girls are not encouraged to study biochemistry or bioengineering, because these are not considered professions for women. Many families are reluctant to invest in girls' education as they believe they will not get a “return on their investment”.
Three actions you can take to be part of Generation Equality:
- Educate parents, teachers and girls about gender equality
- Encourage women and girls to pursue their dreams and ambitions
- Share the care work at home
The ecosystem where women and girls [grow in] plays a crucial role in advancing women’s leadership in any field. We need to work with teachers and raise awareness among them about gender sensitive education. We need gender-sensitive media to showcase strong women and girls as role models in cartoons, films, and pop culture. An individual's success in any area does not depend on their gender. Girls can succeed in any profession.
We also need men allies. In patriarchal societies, men are very influential with their economic, political, and social power and resources. If we don’t have men’s support, we will achieve success to a certain degree, but very slowly. If we have men as allies, we can achieve Generation Equality much faster.
Encourage girls and women to pursue their dreams
I lead a Kyrgyz Space Programme, a scientific and socio-educational initiative which contributes to the development of science, education, and gender equality in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asian region. Together with a team of talented girls we are working on assembling the country’s first nanosatellite and also deliver courses on soldering, 3D-modeling, 3D-printing, and computer programming to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education among young women and girls. We want to show by our own example that girls are capable of doing anything, even reaching for the stars.
Girls are capable of anything, even reaching for the stars.
We encounter many negative comments that this programme would fail because girls and women are leading it. People do not even consider any other factors such as lack of funding and infrastructure. The first element [for failure] for them is the presence of women and girls in the team.
Empower and invest in rural girls and boys
In big cities, we have more opportunities in science and IT, with better infrastructure, access to educational programmes, internships, and job opportunities. Rural areas don't have these advantages. Many rural girls and boys don't have computers and phones to use for their education, which is crucial, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We need STEM education among marginalized groups of women and girls, men and boys. We need women empowerment programmes to break the glass ceiling and expand opportunities for women and girls in science.
Kyzzhibek Batyrkanova, 26, is the director of the Kyrgyz Space Programme. She is also a TechWomen 2019 alumna, hosted by Mozilla HQ in San Francisco Bay Area, and co-founder of the TechCamp project, supported through the Ideas Campaign of the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia implemented in partnership with the UN Women Country in Kyrgyzstan.