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Taungana was conceptualized as a multi-pronged solution to the great need for development in the science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and mathematics domains on the African continent (and globally). For instance, UNESCO reported that 2.5 million new engineers and technicians are required in sub-Saharan Africa to provide the clean water and sanitation the continent desperately needs.
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On the other hand, females remain hugely under-represented in these STEM fields, globally and in Africa. These are all startling figures in a continent where women are largely the primary caregivers, particularly in rural communities. To foster innovation and economic development in African countries, it is important to bring these women to the STEM problem-solving table – yet access to information and exposure to the application of STEM education in career paths remains extremely limited for students who live outside of our continent’s major cities. And so Taungana was born.
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Taungana is a Shona name which means “coming together’’. It started in December 2013 with the aim of identifying and developing talented high school girls from underserved rural Africa with knowledge and resources through exposure and access to STEM organisations, careers, role models, education and continued mentorship through practice leaders while equipping them with entrepreneurial skills to implement monetizable community development projects.
Taungana partners with; Tech Women Alumnae of South Africa, Asikana network of Zambia and Tech women of Zimbabwe. The main leading activity of Taungana is the STEM expo(Fellowship program) held every year in August since 2014, where rural girls from the three countries are selected based on merit to represent their countries. During the Expo the Girls connect with STEM professionals, get exposure to leading STEM organisations, STEM career paths, and become STEM promotion ambassadors in their own communities.
This year’s Taungana STEM Expo was held from 19th to 27th August 2017 in Johannesburg South Africa. Twenty-six (26) girls from the three countries took part in the Expo, where Seventeen (17) girls were South Africans, Two (2) were Zimbabweans and Seven (7) were Zambians.
During the Expo, girls (ambassadors) were exposed to different professionals with STEM careers most of which were females. The ambassadors had the opportunity to meet and listen to inspirational speeches by the female Doctors, Engineers, Scientists as well as entrepreneurs that have had an excellent academic performance in STEM subjects. And also visited Companies that offer solutions to problems within their communities, countries as well as Southern Africa as a whole. The whole idea of the visit was to educate the ambassadors on how individuals or groups of people came up with simple ideas that have developed into companies manufacturing and selling tangible products that are sold world over.
Taungana hopes to see more rural high school girls not only from the current three participating countries but with the hope of expanding to the rest of the Southern Region moving towards STEM careers.