Zim women leaders in STEM visit US
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