Girls and women who want to pursue their STEM studies have encountered enormous obstacles in a subject that has historically been dominated by males. Meanwhile, recent events have brought attention to the rising number of 89.3 million refugees, displaced persons, and stateless people worldwide, over 27% of whom are women and girls under the age of 18. Even though it can be an effective strategy to increase possibilities for underrepresented groups, international education, and particularly virtual interaction, is rarely employed to solve such problems.
The AFS Global STEM Accelerators initiative got 1,083 applications from 71 nations, including Syrian refugees in Turkey, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Nigeria. Young women (ages 15–17.5) from all around the world who are passionate about making a difference in their communities were invited to apply. For refugees and girls from displaced communities, whether due to conflict, violence, or natural catastrophe, AFS explicitly dedicated 20% of scholarships.
Young women from 61 different countries were given 180 scholarships, which reflects the variety and inclusivity the initiative aims to achieve:
- 20% of receivers say they are refugees or from communities of displaced people.
- 82% of beneficiaries say they are people of colour.
- The majority of recipients—51%—are from low-income families.
- 10% of students are on track to become the first in their family to complete high school.
AFS and bp are ready to meet these demands since they are aware that access to technology and internet connectivity is not equally distributed around the world. The tremendous interest shown by these intelligent young women is encouraging, according to Kerry Dryburgh, EVP people & culture, bp. “We wish them the very best on their journey,” the statement reads. “With their drive to make a difference and the skills they will develop, they are future changemakers, leaders, and innovators.” The claims that virtual interaction is a potent instrument for increasing access to educational opportunities are further supported by the statements of the scholarship recipients.
The AFS Global STEM Accelerators programme finishes with students creating capstone presentations and social impact projects that provide viable answers to contemporary problems with a focus on sustainability. AFS and the University of Pennsylvania jointly award participants with the Advanced Certificate on Global Competence for Social Impact, as well as formal University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy approval of their capstone projects. Twelve trained facilitators (all women) from nine different nations make up the diversified facilitation team that directs students’ learning and capstone development. Scholars will be asked to join the alumni network once the programme is over, which offers a variety of mentorship opportunities, skill-building activities, panel discussions, and possibilities for continuing growth. The AFS Youth Assembly, a global meeting of young people actively working for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, will now be open to scholars.