Award-winning Chemistry researcher Dr Asel Sarbaeva has been appointed a UNICEF Ambassador for the ‘Girls in Science’ programme in Kyrgyzstan.
Dr Sartbaeva, who leads research at the University of Bath into the thermal stability of vaccines, will take part in UNICEF Kyrgyzstan (KG) campaigns and social media events aimed at girls who might otherwise steer clear of a science education.
“We need to show girls that science isn’t boring and is a great choice for girls who have a natural passion for science,” said Dr Sartbaeva.
The Bath academic will also run master classes for other science educators, motivating them to encourage girls to embrace the sciences.
“I was born in Kyrgyzstan and remember often hearing that science is not for girls, usually said by the men around me, but I still went on to study Chemistry at university." said Dr Sartbaeva. "I would have found this choice easier if I’d had encouragement from my university teachers. When I won the Republic Olympiad in Strength of Materials (Soprotivlenie Materialov) and was told that I was the first female winner in that subject, I was very surprised and happy.”
Dr Sartbaeva will be actively involved in encouraging girls in Kyrgyzstan to study science.
Dr Sartbaeva is already involved in promoting science to children. She is currently working on the production of a series of documentaries that set out to explain experimental chemistry and processes such as crystallisation and polymerisation to primary school children.
The UNICEF programme in Kyrgyzstan aims to engage between 15,000 and 30,000 girls from new settlements or poverty-stricken regions who have been left behind in their education. Initially, UNICEF KG will be partnering with three local NGOs. In time, the hope is that additional public and private partners will be found to further the scheme's mentorship activities. As part of these activities, girls will be matched with female mentors wherever possible.
In Kyrgyzstan, 86% of students in social sciences and humanities are women but only one in three girls is computer literate.
“I hope that together with UNICEF KG, we’ll be able to reach as many girls as possible even in the most remote areas in Kyrgyzstan,” said Dr Sartbaeva. “Of course, the idea of the programme is not to force girls into science – science probably isn’t for everyone – but to provide girls with computer literacy, confidence, essential skills and knowledge that will help them make conscious choices about their profession in the future.
“I do hope we also find talented girls who have a passion for STEM subjects, and that we can encourage and equip them with necessary skills to pursue careers in science or engineering.”