Zim women lead­ers in STEM visit US

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

A TEAM of Zim­bab­wean women keen on science and tech­nol­ogy is rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try at TechWomen, a United States De­part­ment pro­gramme which con­nects and sup­ports the next gen­er­a­tion of women lead­ers in Science, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics (STEM).

The team of women who were se­lected from di­verse back­grounds and pro­fes­sions are in the USA for an in­tern­ship pro­gramme that en­com­passes other women from other African coun­tries, Asia and the Mid­dle East. In an in­ter­view, Mrs Nat­sai Mutezo-Ma­woni, one of the par­tic­i­pants, said she ap­plied for the in­tern­ship so that she could in­flu­ence young women in science.

“The ob­jec­tives of the pro­gramme res­onate with the role I wish to play as a woman in STEM who is uniquely po­si­tioned to pos­i­tively in­flu­ence girls and women in my com­mu­nity and my peers in in­dus­try.

“It is an ideal plat­form to lever­age a net­work that pro­motes ideals of men­tor­ship and en­cour­ag­ing STEM ca­reers, while also fos­ter­ing in­creased col­laboration be­tween par­tic­i­pants from all over Africa, Cen­tral Asia and the Mid­dle East and the US,” she said.

Mrs Mutezo-Ma­woni, a tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor at the Ines­fly Cor­po­ra­tion which works in the area of Vec­tor Borne Dis­ease Con­trol in Ac­cra, Ghana will be at­tached at a com­pany called 23andMe.

“I will be in­terned at 23andMe which is a pri­vately held per­sonal ge­nomics and biotech­nol­ogy com­pany based in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia. The com­pany is named af­ter the 23 pairs of chro­mo­somes in a nor­mal hu­man cell. My area of in­ter­est is in the route to mar­ket for break­through in­no­va­tions that will al­le­vi­ate prob­lems unique to Africa and will best serve the African mar­ket,” she said.

She said she is pas­sion­ate about cre­at­ing syn­er­gies be­tween or­gan­i­sa­tions driv­ing in­no­va­tion in the area of dis­ease preven­tion, green chem­i­cal prod­ucts, cos­met­ics and nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments.

“My de­sire is to be­come part of the wider global com­mu­nity in­vested in en­trepreneur­ship and tack­ling global chal­lenges through sus­tain­able so­lu­tions. I aim to build di­verse and em­pow­ered teams work­ing in the field of science and tech­nol­ogy that are equipped with first world prin­ci­ples and ap­proaches to busi­ness, and ac­tively en­gage cor­po­rate in equal op­por­tu­nity job cre­ation A LO­CAL busi­ness­man has fi­nally got the green­light to con­struct a state-of-the-art se­condary board­ing school at Nkenyane area in Bubi Dis­trict, Mata­bele­land North to up­lift ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards in the area.

Mr Tha­bani Moyo told Sun­day News that the school, to be named Quant­wasi Col­lege was part of his five-year de­vel­op­ment plan. In 2016, vil­lagers in the area threat­ened to use force to com­pel the busi­ness­man to stop con­struc­tion of a pri­vate school in their area.

The vil­lagers were ar­gu­ing that the project would re­duce their agri­cul­tural land, both for crop­ping and graz­ing and might even re­sult in some home­steads be­ing dis­placed. But, Mr Moyo said at least $180 000 has been in­vested into the project so far.

“The project is a five-year de­vel­op­ment plan and we ex­pect our first phase to cost about $250 000 and so far we have in­vested about $180 000. The first phase which is the con­struc­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion block en­com­pass­ing the class­rooms is ex­pected to be com­pleted around De­cem­ber this year. By June 2019 we ex­pect to be done with the con­struc­tion of the pupils’ ac­com­mo­da­tion and din­ing hall.

“The school will have one science lab­o­ra­tory, a li­brary and also class­room for prac­ti­cals. Hence our first learn­ers will walk into our school grounds by 2020,” said Mr Moyo.

He said the project was part of his quest to make ed­u­ca­tion ac­ces­si­ble in ru­ral ar­eas, com­ple­ment­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s quest to build schools around the coun­try, es­pe­cially in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties.

“I did not start this project as a busi­ness­man but as a Zim­bab­wean who wanted to make a con­tri­bu­tion to the so­ci­ety that has done so much for me and also be­cause I was aware that there is deficit of schools in the coun­try es­pe­cially through de­vel­op­ment projects un­der­pinned by in­no­va­tion,” she said.

She en­cour­aged other women in STEM to pur­sue their dreams and not down­grade those dreams to match their cir­cum­stances.

Through men­tor­ship and ex­change, TechWomen strength­ens par­tic­i­pants’ pro­fes­sional ca­pac­ity, in­creases mu­tual un­der­stand­ing be­tween key net­works of pro­fes­sion­als, and ex­pands girls’ in­ter­est in STEM ca­reers by ex­pos­ing them to fe­male role mod­els.

The Emerg­ing Lead­ers have the op­por­tu­nity to be based at a host com­pany in Sil­i­cone Val­ley, USA and to achieve their pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment goals for their cho­sen field and track.

The Zim­babwe Co­hort this year is also made up of Miss Edith Mugehu who is a Grad­u­ate Re­search As­so­ciate at the Zim­babwe Sugar As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­per­i­ment Sta­tion, Mrs San­dra Chipuka, a Med­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory Sci­en­tist and Head of HIV Vi­ral Load Sec­tion at the Na­tional Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy Ref­er­ence Lab­o­ra­tory, Ms Pru­dence Kadebu, Head of the Soft­ware En­gi­neer­ing De­part­ment at the Harare In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Ms Nothando Ndlovu a Physi­cist who tu­tors at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy and an As­sis­tant Project Man­ager at South Pole Con­sult­ing, Miss Magehu who will be at­tached at Lawrence Berke­ley Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory in the Com­puter and Math­e­mat­ics in En­ergy Re­search Ap­pli­ca­tions (Cam­era) and the en­vi­ron­ment in ru­ral ar­eas. Hence I wanted to em­bark on a project that would not only ben­e­fit me but the com­mu­nity,” said Mr Moyo.

He said the project was mo­ti­vated by his past ex­pe­ri­ence.

“In 1983 at the age of 19 I went back to do my Grade Seven. I re­mem­ber it so well, I had walked from Zhukwe to Gwanda and fi­nally to Bu­l­awayo. I ar­rived in Bu­l­awayo af­ter three days at my brother’s place and from that par­tic­u­lar point I re­flected on my life. One day as I was pass­ing in front of the school of­fice, I ap­proached the school head­mas­ter Mr God­frey Kan­dawa­suka and I asked him for a place to do my Grade Seven of which I was the old­est in my class and was im­me­di­ately ap­pointed the deputy head­boy. The head­mas­ter was a very strict man, how­ever, he re­mains my in­spi­ra­tion to this very day,” he said.

“The project has been com­mis­sioned to cel­e­brate my fam­ily, I con­sider them as my busi­ness part­ners be­cause they have been sup­port­ive through­out this en­tire jour­ney which has had its ups and downs where at one point I was dragged to court by the res­i­dents of the area af­ter a land dis­pute. My two sons and daugh­ter have been hands-on ev­ery­thing from the start. Hence I de­cided to call the col­lege Quant­wasi,”said Mr Moyo.

Bubi Dis­trict chief ex­ec­u­tive officer Mr Pat­son Mlilo said the project would help de­velop the com­mu­nity.

“The project will bring de­vel­op­ment in terms of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. The con­struc­tion of the pri­vate school is purely an eco­nomic driver and we have gladly wel­comed it with open arms,” said Mr Mlilo.

Ward 14 coun­cil­lor Cookie Moyo ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion over the project.

“The con­struc­tion of the pri­vate will en­sure that our chil­dren re­ceive qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and job op­por­tu­ni­ties. He has promised to build a com­puter room and also pro­vide com­put­ers for one of our se­condary schools, Ethikeni Se­condary School,” she said.

@NdlovuCharleen ge­nomics and sys­tems bi­ol­ogy divi­sion had this to say:

“My area of in­ter­est is plant breed­ing and biotech­nol­ogy so I am go­ing to utilise this op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce data min­ing, machine learn­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence into crop pro­duc­tion es­pe­cially in the Zim­babwe sug­ar­cane in­dus­try,” said Miss Magehu.

Mrs Chipuka said her de­sire was to adopt and set up the use of molec­u­lar tech­niques in pub­lic health lab­o­ra­to­ries in Zim­babwe to aid rapid di­ag­no­sis of in­fec­tious dis­eases and to con­trib­ute to the ef­forts to pre­vent, cure and man­age dis­eases through ge­nomic se­quenc­ing.

Ms Kadebu who will be based at Twit­ter said; “I am get­ting ex­po­sure to project manage­ment in­volv­ing large de­vel­op­ment teams. I am get­ting ex­po­sure to user re­search and data anal­y­sis. My project here in­volves an anal­y­sis of the adop­tion and us­age of Twit­ter in Africa. This in­volves analysing top tweets for the past month for African coun­tries. This project is ex­pected to re­veal the trends in the us­age of Twit­ter across Africa, feed­back on what Twit­ter can do to im­prove the user ex­pe­ri­ence for its African Mar­ket,” she said.

Af­ter the in­tern­ship she said she aims to get more in­volved in com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties to men­tor girls and women and to en­gage in con­tin­u­ous pro­fes­sional im­prove­ment ac­tiv­i­ties to be able to im­part knowl­edge to oth­ers.

Team Zim­babwe rep­re­sen­ta­tives at TechWomen

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