The Capacity Development Unit celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science with visit from secondary school 

The Capacity Development Unit celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science with visit from secondary school 

At the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, two friends in Form Three shared how their curiosity about the world led them to join the science club at Precious Blood Girls Secondary School, Riruta in Nairobi County:  

I like science because it’s just so interesting to learn about how the world works, how the plants grow, how our bodies work.  

I just got these dreams about wanting to know how things work. I see experiments, and I want to know what’s behind all that.  

On Monday, 13 February, Capacity Development Unit at ILRI celebrated the previous weekend’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2023 by hosting a group of 20 girls and their teacher on campus. Precious Blood’s science club members, these girls toured the labs and learned about different careers in science from women who work in various research programs and support units at ILRI.

ILRI had previously hosted Precious Blood back in 2019. Teacher Winnie, their science club advisor, reflected on the success of that trip and why she wanted to bring her students back: ‘We thought it was a good idea to bring the girls here every year and partner with ILRI so they can know that even girls can do it in science. When they see women in science, hear what they are doing and what they’ve achieved, it inspires and encourages them.’ 

Shirley Tarawali, acting director general at ILRI, welcomed the girls and explained the importance of women in science within the livestock sector: ‘Two-thirds of rural livestock keepers are women, so women must be represented in livestock research.’ #Womeninscience #Livestock #Research #AfricanScientists #AMR #Environment #Cattle #buffalo #Human #Girlsinscience #GirlsinStem #WomeninStem #Capdev #ILRI #Kenya @UN Women #UNESCO #UN ♬ Emotional Piano for the Soul (Inspirational Background Music) - Fearless Motivation Instrumentals

Tarawali shared how many Kenyan women scientists at ILRI bring their personal experiences growing up with livestock into their research to solve global and local problems: ‘We need people like yourselves, who know what it looks like on the ground, to grow up and become part of the science world, so that you contribute from your experiences as well. So that we don’t have scientists who come from someplace else and just decide how it’s going to be or decide what the priority for science should be. You need to be part of that as well. We need to make sure that we have women like you doing the science.’  

Regina Njeru, the biosciences lab coordinator at ILRI, took the girls on a lab tour where they learned about the sciences beyond the courses offered at their high school. They heard from ILRI women scientists in different research labs such as microbiology, nutrition, and molecular immunology. For the students, the lab tour was the highlight of their trip: ‘My favourite experience was going into the labs and meeting Linda, studying virology. They’re researching viruses that can even defeat bacteria. As a kid, I used to take so many medicines and antibiotics. Sometimes they didn’t even work, and I had to be hospitalized. Such research can really help out like the world and someone sick.’

Next, the girls were given presentations from women at ILRI who work in departments that provide the enabling environment for ILRI’s research, like human resources and the legal team. These presenters also ranged in where they were in their careers, from fellows to managers to a director. 

After sharing a meal with all the ILRI staff who welcomed them, the girls and the school were awarded certificates of participation from ILRI and the Capacity Development Unit. 

In conclusion, the students learned what a career in science could look like. As representatives of their school, the students discussed what they planned to take back and share with their peers:  

I’ll tell people, ‘Don’t limit yourself.’ When people tell you that maths and sciences are hard, my takeaway is that if you have a passion for it, a career shouldn’t be something somebody tells you to do; it should be something that you fall in love with. So for me, just seeing people talk passionately about how they love sciences, I’d like to encourage others to pursue a course in science. 

Photos by ILRI / Marvin Wasonga