It’s not often that you find a black girl in a laboratory with a white coat on doing experiments and creating amazing explosions, and when you do, it is a surprise.
I Am Science is a local project by the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg that aims to improve gender equality and reduce stereotypes by urging girls to participate more in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Only about 39% of science researchers in South Africa are women.
Globally, this figure is even worse and stands at 30%.
Over 90% of South African schools do not have science laboratories, this is according to a South African Research and Innovation Capacity report.
According to Unesco’s Institute for Statistics fact-sheet, women account for a minority of the world’s researchers.
Despite the growing demand for statistics on women in science, national data and their use in policymaking often remain limited, particularly where women are vastly under-represented in the sciences.
Through after school workshops over the course of four days, the project’s goal is to spark girls’ curiosity about the sciences by exploring fun and exciting hands-on activities.
But why only girls?
Says I Am Science project coordinator Victoria John: “We chose to focus on black girls because there’s an unequal amount of women and men working in the science field.
"Girls are discouraged from being curious and interested in science right from infancy.
"They are also excluded from conversations and spaces where they can experience how things work, so we created the space for girls to be who and what they want.
“We have struggled in the past in trying to convince schools why we want to focus on girls, they feel like boys are being excluded, but we tried hard to make sure they are aware of what gender dynamics and gender stereotype does to the world in general.”
The project is very focused on creating videos that not only involve girls but can be used as a teaching tool for other schools.
“We make professional videos of the girls doing the activities and put them on social media. This is a way of normalising an image of a black girl doing and talking about science.
"We are not only trying to change the mindset of girls but we want to change the mindset of society that black girls can't be in science,” says John.
The project also provides opportunities to girls to experiment with different chemicals to enhance their scientific knowledge. Picture: Supplied
Videos are very powerful and they can reach a lot of people, which is why we decided to take videos when the girls do the experiments.
Also, teenage girls - our target group - have said they want to learn about science through doing and watching,” John added.
Ommy Kanuseki, a student from Barnato Park Academy in Johannesburg, said she and her friends did some amazing experiments with I Am Science.
“Victoria and her team helped us to present it and also take videos of us doing the experiments. I learnt that girls are capable of doing science and I am in love with science, especially chemistry. It also showed me that we as girls have the potential to become scientists.”
I Am Science will be expanding to Uganda, Zambia and Burkina Faso.
Check out the project at iamscienceproject.com or on Facebook at I Am Science and Twitter @_IAmScience
You can also contact the project at 0871511802