The advent of the ‘new normal’ occasioned by the COVID 19 pandemic set the stage for the second in the series of the PUNCH Webinar Series, a virtual event organised by the PUNCH Media Foundation. The edition tagged “Girl Child Education, Technology and National Development”, was held in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child on Monday, 11 October 2021 via Zoom.
As with the first in the series, the event was moderated by Mrs Isabella Adediji, the Founder and Managing Director of Yellow Tamarind Productions, who, as always, brought much life to and set the tone for the conversation. Speakers at the event were unanimous in their hope for a society that gives equal support and opportunity to the girl child as with the male child, especially in STEM.
Osai Ojigho, Country Director, Amnesty International, one of the speakers at the event, made participants see that girls are not encouraged by most Nigerian families, schools, and the society at large to participate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), hence, their low representation and the domination of STEM by males. She noted that COVID-19 has made the situation worse as many women lost their jobs, while others have been exposed to all sorts of violations, marking a major setback to their career pursuits and aspirations, and further confining them to take on more domestic chores.
While admitting the reality of a setback in the career pursuit of women the world over, Dr Ibilola Amao, Founder and Executive Consultant of Lonadek Global Services, said that the case was different for some women, who notably achievedamazing feats in the digital and technological space even during the pandemic. She emphasised this for girls to see themselves as equally capable as their male counterparts in any given role, and to never allow local, national, or global limitations to deter them from pursuing their goals. She noted that the pandemic has engendered a digital transformation in the creative industry, making it possible for women to get work across time and geographical zones.
Mr Joel Nwokeoma, Editorial Page Editor, PUNCH Newspapers, noted that the media, as an agenda-setter, have a major role to play in disabusing the minds of parents and stimulating the consciousness of other relevant stakeholders about the potentials in the girl child. To achieve the sustainable development goal 5, Mr Nwokeoma noted that the media must be deliberate in encouraging girls’ involvement in STEM through their content across media genres –print, broadcast, and online media. In specific terms, he pointed that the media should be consistent and intentional in reporting breakthroughs and successes among women in STEM, make STEM reportage appealing and not scary for girls, and bring women to the limelight in reporting STEM.
Similarly, Ms Ojigho expressed hope that women and girls will do better in STEM if the media is committed to pushing publicity for what girls and women are already doing in STEM as this will help dispel societal stereotypes about women and will build the confidence of girls in their limitless abilities.
The PUNCH Webinar Series is a programme designed by the PUNCH Media Foundation to mark special United Nations (UN) world days towards creating awareness of and tackling issues that underpin the sustainable development goals.
PUNCH Media Foundation (PMF) is a non-governmental organisation established in 2019 with a mission to stimulate a just and thriving society using the instrument of public policy advocacy, journalism, and media development.