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STEM programs open new doors for women and girls

South Sudan
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Publication date

In both South Sudan and the Kurdish Region of Iraq, IsraAID and STEM Synergy’s STEM programs are transforming the situation of women and girls who have experienced displacement and conflict.

7 March 2018

IsraAID and STEM Synergy’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs in both South Sudan and the Kurdish Region of Iraq are changing the lives of women and girls who have experienced conflict and displacement. The ground-breaking STEM programs feature both theoretical and practical education, offering students and teachers a unique opportunity to expand their educational potential and participate in the rebuilding and development of their countries. On International Women’s Day and throughout the year, IsraAID and STEM Synergy’s programs continue to provide women and girls, often deprived of access to education at greater rates than their male peers, with a vital pathway to expanding participation in society.

The only STEM program in the Kurdish Region of Iraq, operated in partnership with IsraAID and STEM Synergy, with the support of the Mark Gelfand Family Charitable Trust, is already making a vital difference. Women and girls make up 60% of students and 75% of teachers on the program. In 2017, the program reached nearly 2,000 students in eight schools, with 120 volunteer teachers trained by IsraAID and STEM Synergy. For students and teachers who have experienced prolonged periods of displacement, STEM programs in a safe and secure environment can dramatically improve personal achievement, resourcefulness and opportunities for future success.

Diana (her name has been changed to maintain anonymity), the first volunteer teacher on the STEM program in Kurdish Iraq, explained the vital importance of STEM education to women in Kurdish Iraq: “Women in Iraq need education programs like these. It is hugely important, first for us, and through us for our children and the wider community. Iraq is a big country, and it will not be developed without women participating in the process. We live in a closed environment, where women are losing the chance to be more conscious of the world around us, but the STEM program has enabled us to deepen our understanding and see things we could never have imagined before. The education we have earned will help us make change for the next generation of Iraqis, while the current generation needs us as teachers, sisters and mothers.”

The first-ever STEM center in South Sudan, based at the University of Juba, was opened in November 2017 in partnership with IsraAID and STEM Synergy, and with the continued generous support of the Mark Gelfand Family Charitable Trust. In South Sudan, according to the UNFPA, only 34% of girls are enrolled in primary school, and the UNDP estimates that the expected number of years girls will spend in school is only 3.8 – the lowest of all countries with data available. By providing women and girls in South Sudan with access to electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, optics and computer learning labs for the first time, the Juba University STEM Center has the potential to have a profound, long-term effect on girls’ educational attainment and opportunity.

“STEM does not know any boundaries of gender, religion nor ethnicity. STEM connects people and promote peaceful coexistence through knowledge and education,” explained Dr. Mark Gelfand, the Founder of STEM Synergy and the Mark Gelfand Family Charitable Trust.


Notes to Editors:


IsraAID is a leading humanitarian non-governmental organisation, committed to providing life-saving emergency relief and durable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Since its inception in 2001, IsraAID has become synonymous with a rapid response to humanitarian crises. Its medical teams, search & rescue units, post trauma experts, community specialists and other professionals have led international responses in natural disasters and civil strife around the world. After the initial emergency period, IsraAID shifts to long-term programs, all to accompany communities and governments as they strive to build a better tomorrow. As of 2018, IsraAID has responded to crises in 46 countries, and has on-going programs in 20 countries.