Women in engineering
Women are underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) higher education courses and occupations around the world. UNESCO reports fewer than 30 per cent of the world’s STEM researchers are women.
The situation in the UK isn’t much better. In 2017-2018, women made up less than a quarter (24 per cent) of the STEM workforce. And only 10 per cent of engineering professionals were women.
In that same year, just over a third (35 per cent) of STEM students in the UK were women. And if we look at women in engineering courses at universities during 2017-2018, the number plummets to only 19 per cent.
Halfway around the world in Togo, the number of women in STEM programmes at universities isn’t even recorded. In fact, the World Bank estimates the literacy rate in Togo for women above the age of 15 hovers around 51 per cent compared to about 77 per cent for men over the age of 15.
Why Togo? Meet Winner
Winner always loved engines. Something about the way they work always fascinated her. She dreamed of one day designing engines that could make planes fly better, faster, safer.
But her dream seemed impossible to attain when she was a child.
Winner remembers how she and her brother were often expelled from school for non-payment of school fees, returning home together to find that there was not enough food for the family to eat.
Her father, Kablye, had lost his job as an electrician, and her mother, Claire, could hardly cover the family’s needs with her salary as a nurse.
A neighbour, seeing the family’s difficulties, told Winner’s parents about the newly established Compassion project in their community. The project welcomed Winner at the age of eight paid her school fees and bought her essential school items.
“Once I was enrolled by the project, my brother and I were not turned away from school anymore,” says Winner.
“The project has also bought learning books for me, and my brother could also use them. It was a great relief.”
The project came alongside Winner, supporting her school needs, providing food to the family when needed, educating her how to pursue a promising career. When she completed middle school, she had to specialise in a course to be in high school.
Winner wants to be an engineer
Winner wanted to become an aeronautical engineer.
Unsure of the path that would lead her there, Winner asked her Compassion project staff for help. With their guidance, she began studying mechanical engineering as a first step towards realising her dream.
She didn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She didn’t mind mixing with the boys in her class. Unfortunately, sometimes the boys had issues with female engineers.
As the World Bank indicates, it’s incredibly rare for a young woman to be interested in engineering in a community where only about half the women above the age of 15 can read or write.
“I didn’t have any idea of what was awaiting me,” says Winner.
“On the first day of class, I was astonished they were all males, aside from myself and one other girl who became my friend.”
The path to realising Winner’s dream isn’t easy
Winner often encountered discouragement.
“Some teachers even told me during the first days in class that I should find another course to follow. They said I could never make it, that mechanical engineering was not for women.”
Winner had a lot to prove. She studied hard. By the end of her first quarter exams, she ranked 12 in a class of 45 men. By the second quarter, she was second in her class. She continued to push herself, and by the third quarter, she was ranked first in her class.
But the battle continued. Many male classmates did their best to make life difficult for Winner.
“They would refuse to share their knowledge with me, or they would try to convince me of wrong information,” says Winner.
But Winner is tenacious and she’s not alone
This didn’t hold her back. She kept working hard, and at the national exam to enter university, she attained the second-highest mark for students in mechanical engineering nationally.
Her Compassion project provided a laptop, books and funds for the daily transport to the university.
“We couldn’t afford the cost of my daughter’s studies at the university,” says Kablye, Winner’s father.
“These studies come at a high cost. I thank the project who supported her financially.”
After completing her high school studies in mechanical engineering, Winner is writing her thesis for her university degree. She still has one year to graduate from the Compassion programme. Meanwhile, she managed to get a scholarship for additional training, combining solar energy and electricity.
Right now, Winner is designing a motorcycle powered by solar energy for people with disabilities and will introduce it during the presentation of her thesis.
“I want to thank the local church for partnering with Compassion to support us. My gratitude overflows for all the staff and volunteers at the project.”
“I also thank my sponsor, who has encouraged me,” she adds.
“It feels good to know that someone somewhere loves you, cares for you, prays for you and invests financially in you. I never abandoned my studies because I knew I was precious to my sponsor, and he was investing in me.”
A future full of big dreams, but not for all
Winner intends to establish a company to serve people and help them reduce their electricity bills with solar energy while also looking to be admitted to an international university where she can study aeronautical engineering.
In May 2019, Winner represented Compassion Togo at the Regional Youth Leaders’ Summit in Kenya and in 2020 she was one of the moderators at the National Youth Leaders’ Summit. She is also a Sunday school teacher at the Assemblies of God Church and a leader in her community, encouraging young girls who would like to study engineering.
Sadly, not all children and young people in poverty have the opportunity to realise their dreams. They are often robbed of a brighter future due to circumstances beyond their control. Our ministry supports our church partners to come alongside incredible young people, offer them opportunities to overcome poverty, use their God-given talents and realise their ambitions.
Thank God for children with big dreams and the means to realise them
We are thanking God for Winner today. We’re praising Him for her tenacity and talent. May she achieve her dreams for His glory.
We are also grateful for sponsors who support children like Winner. Their partnership plays a vital role.
If you too want to help support a child to achieve their dreams, please visit our sponsorship page to find out more.