A robot rescuer, a home automation house and a teddy bear with technology for the identification of refugee children are some of the inventions with which Latin American girls and adolescents seek to break stereotypes and inspire others to explore the science.
“In Corinto, all of this technology, science, is very complex, also when opportunities or help arrive due to the issue of violence, of which I was a victim, like many other girls”tells EFE the Colombian Ingrid Yuliana Guachetá, who, despite being born in a farmhouse alien to technology and in one of the areas hardest hit by the armed conflict, at the age of 14 fulfilled the dream of going to NASA.
Although he has experienced the drama of war very closely, neither the violence, due to which he lost his father two years ago, nor the scarcity of economic and technological resources have diminished his interest in science, a fascination that has insisted on transmit to other girls, especially those in the most remote places.
“We are working on a project so that, despite the distance, girls are empowered to learn a little more about science in municipalities like ours, where the subject is not very important. They are fairs, conferences with people who know a lot, so that they can inspire them as they inspired us”, explains Ingrid, who traveled to NASA within a program of the organization “She is”.
Like her, other adolescents, organizations such as UN Women or Unesco, Governments and the private sector seek that more and more girls and women are linked to science and technology, since they are key areas for the economy and social development and the population The female who studies these careers continues to be a minority, with barely 35% of the total.
“The idea that there are ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ races still persists. Unfortunately, there are many girls who still grow up with this conception and do not see themselves studying a career or accessing job opportunities in science”explains to EFE María-Noel Vaeza, regional director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean.
Curious girls, scientific women
Gloria Esther Recinos, known in Guatemala as the girl inventor, remembers how her “rescue robot”: on October 1, 2015, when she was 11 years old, an avalanche buried more than two hundred homes, leaving a balance of 280 dead, in a humble settlement near the Guatemalan capital.
“This tragedy led me to create a prototype robot that was guided by the light of a flashlight and by remote control instructions. The robot could get into the rubble and detect a person, indicating the exact position to the rescuers”recounts the young Biomedical Engineering student.
Gloria Esther, 18, attributes her prolific career in robotics to curiosity, in which she has won awards for the design of a home automation house, a robotic hand and arm prosthesis, and an alternative energy project, which made 10 years old and is on display at the Museum of Science and Technology in Guatemala City.
“My message to girls and adolescents is to look for something that motivates them and makes them curious to keep their minds working and not to be left behind, but to continue innovating with their own ideas, developing much more creativity”it states.
The same says the Venezuelan Alai Miranda, who approached programming at the age of 6 and is the creator of “Alibubu”, a teddy bear with a wireless device inside that is used to store the personal data of refugee children who travel through Europe alone and without identification.
“Not all the girls have the same means that I had, the opportunity to buy many pots to do little things, but they are curious. I like to think that for many girls who have access to the internet, curiosity will allow them to use it differently and be self-taught.”adds this young resident of Spain.
Valtencir Mendes, Head of Education at the UNESCO Regional Office of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, agrees that curiosity is a main motivational tool, and for this reason he recommends that families and teachers encourage girls’ interest in science. “with practical activities and experiences that directly involve them in scientific research”.
“I don’t see it as depending on being a man or being a woman. If someone is better than me in mathematics, it is not because he is a man, it is because he is a person who simply has greater ability ”, Chilean Diana Ávalos, a 12-year-old volunteer with the Association of Young Women for Ideas (AMUJI), a Latin American organization, told EFE “by girls for girls” that promotes its role in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“I have greater ability in science and it bothers me when gender divisions are made”emphasizes this activist and passionate about astronomy when referring to the gaps in STEM in Latin America.
It is that, although Latin America and the Caribbean is, together with Central Asia, one of the two regions that is close to the parity of men and women researchers, there is still less female representation in various fields of science.
By country, according to 2020 data from UN Women, Argentina, Cuba, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay have reached parity in STEM. Venezuela managed to cross the threshold, with 60% of women researchers.
Costa Rica (42.8%), Ecuador (41.1%), Honduras (41%), El Salvador (39.2%), Bolivia (37.5%) and Colombia (37.3%) are closing in. While in Chile, Mexico and Peru women still represent less than 34% of all researchers.
Parents and teachers, keys to having more girl scientists
María Antonia Amundarain Álvarez, known as SuperToña, is a 7-year-old science star on YouTube, a platform on which she teaches experiments with basic materials to inspire other children.
“When I grow up I want to be an astronaut because I want to discover that there is life on Mars”says this Colombian girl, who has received great family encouragement to explore science, especially from her mother, Erika Álvarez.
The idea is “Chip kids and families that science is fun and you don’t need a lab. Many times, due to lack of time or resources, the family delegates this task to the school, but values and training really start from early childhood”says SuperToña’s mother.
The regional director of UN Women agrees that mothers and fathers “can play a key role in promoting gender equality and development” in science, as well as teaching staff, who are called to be trained “in gender-sensitive teaching strategies” to achieve parity in STEM careers.
Along the same lines, the Unesco expert Valtencir Mendes points out that it is “responsibility of both the educational system and families to guarantee equal access for girls and women to education and STEM careers”since one of the main gender gaps in the region is in the areas of technology and mathematics, “which are generated during the first years of childhood”.
(With information from EFE)
Ricardo is a renowned author and journalist, known for his exceptional writing on top-news stories. He currently works as a writer at the 247 News Agency, where he is known for his ability to deliver breaking news and insightful analysis on the most pressing issues of the day.