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UNESCO calls for affirmative action
to bridge gender gap in sciences 

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Governments should adopt new policy and legislative incentives in a bid to address a glaring gender disparity in scientific disciplines, said a senior UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) official on Monday.

Therese Ndong-Jatta, the Regional Director at the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, said that countries must address gender gap in science and technology as a matter of urgency in order to realize sustainable peace and development.

“Science related fields will continue to play a crucial role for sustainable development and we simply cannot afford to leave behind the full potential for creation and innovation women can bring,” Ndong-Jatta said during an event to mark the 2018 International Day of Women and Girls in Sciences held in Nairobi.

The theme of this year’s International Day for women and girls in sciences sought to challenge governments to adopt radical measures aimed at tackling gender disparity in the uptake of the critical discipline.

Ndong-Jatta decried poor representation of the female gender in the scientific field saying it could undermine the attainment of UN 2030 goals in many countries.

“The under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) translates into loss of critical mass of talent, thoughts and ideas which hinders countries from achieving their maximum development potential,” said Ndong-Jatta.

She decried cultural myths, archaic policies and under-funding that is to blame for dismal female enrollment in scientific disciplines in the institutions of higher learning.

“Promoting the participation of women and girls in sciences means changing mindsets, fighting gender stereotypes and investing in mentorship programs,” Ndong-Jatta remarked.

Senior UN officials, policymakers, academia and campaigners attended the Nairobi forum to mark the International Day for Women and Girls in Sciences.

The Director General of the United Nations Offices in Nairobi (UNON), Sahle Work Zewde said that greater participation of the female gender in the scientific discipline is key to address poverty, disease, hunger and conflicts affecting low income countries.

“There is need to open doors for women and girls to advance their career in science and technology. Policy changes and political goodwill will help address gender gaps in sciences,” Work-Zewde said.

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