In honor of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we were inspired to share the story of a group of Teach For Nepal alumni who are working to encourage girls’ interest in and excitement about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects and potential careers. In response to stark statistics both globally and locally about the underrepresentation of women in STEM-related fields, Astha Khatri, Milan Kumar Sardar Tharu, Shina Shrestha, and Richa Neupane were motivated to introduce more female students to hands-on experiences with science and technology and expand their thinking about future career paths.
Building on the success of Udeshya: Girls in STEM, a three-day workshop that they piloted in July, the four alumni organized a week-long residential STEM “bootcamp” in Kathmandu this fall. Developed in partnership with UNESCO and with the support of several Teach For Nepal partner schools, Udeshya II brought together 20 girls aged 10-15 from schools across six districts outside of the capital for an immersive STEM skill-building and leadership development experience.
The week began with a focus on the girls getting to know each other and make connections between their own lives and the world beyond their communities. The alumni planned games and activities to build the students’ comfort with one another and confidence in voicing their ideas and opinions. Teach For Nepal's Science Curriculum Development Manager Hom B Thapa, who is also an alumnus, worked closely with the team to design science and technology learning experiences that were both informative and fun. Over the course of the seven days, the girls observed STEM professionals in action at two community- and civic-minded technology initiatives; gained new skills in internet research and email communication; experimented with circuit boards, robotics, and other technologies; and considered how science can help solve real-world problems.
Udeshya II culminated in a design challenge in which each student identified an issue facing her community, brainstormed solutions, and designed a project to address the problem using STEM technology. “The students came up with brilliant designs,” including hydraulic bridges and safety systems, explained Shina. The girls then prototyped their projects and presented them to each other and the bootcamp leaders.
As the bootcamp progressed, the alumni observed their students gaining and demonstrating confidence in themselves and their abilities. After a session on public speaking, the girls were noticeably more comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their perspectives. “Maybe it was because they understood we were respecting their opinions and views,” said Astha. “They were not afraid.”
The learning inspired by Udeshya II didn’t end when the week was over. The organizers have heard from several of the students' current Teach For Nepal Fellows that the girls are sharing their new knowledge and skills with their classmates back home. Some are leading efforts to encourage other girls to focus on STEM and others are using what they’ve learned to address problems in their schools and communities.
And it wasn’t only the students whose horizons were expanded. “During my fellowship I had never seen girls so enthusiastic or curious for any activities,” shared Milan, the sole male among the bootcamp organizers. “Here in Udeshya, it was completely different. I learned a lot myself, and it has certainly motivated me to work further.”
“It was a learning opportunity for all of us,” agreed Shina, who explained that the alumni hope to expand Udeshya to other districts beyond Kathmandu.
To stay informed about future Udeshya initiatives and learn more about the fall and summer events, visit Udeshya: Girls in STEM on Facebook.