The Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) was formed by a handful of women engineers in 1982 and formally inaugurated in 1983. What started as a group of six women has grown to a membership base of over 1,500 professional female engineers from all disciplines of engineering. APWEN is a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), a non-governmental organization for all engineers in Nigeria.
The mission of APWEN is as follows:
- To continuously increase awareness that engineering is also a career for girls, thereby improving the strength of female engineers.
- To encourage women to achieve professional excellence as engineers and leaders.
- To promote the engineering profession as a positive force in enhancing the quality of life.
Thanks to their biggest sponsor, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), APWEN has been able to bring Invent it. Build it. and other STEM education and opportunities to girls in rural communities of Nigeria.
Most recently, APWEN awarded 21 girls with checks for one year’s worth of school fees. The recipients were selected through simple science experiments involving buoyancy, separation, series circuit, etc., that were carried out by the students with guidance of APWEN members. The girls ranged in age from primary school to university level; all had shown a strong interest in STEM and planned to pursue a career in engineering.
The check presentation ceremony honored the winners of the Invent it. Build it. event that was held on the 21st of April, 2018, in a newly built science laboratory. The laboratory is named after Dr. Maikanti Baru, the group managing director of the NNPC and the predominant engineering role model within the state.
Read on to learn more about APWEN’s Invent it. Build it. program, the challenges Nigerian students face and the importance of local role models.
When did APWEN begin the Invent it. Build it. program?
Invent it. Build it. was launched on April 21, 2018 at Sarki Ahmad primary school in the Bauchi State of Northeast Nigeria. The program has since spread to schools in four other regions: South Nigeria, Southwest Nigeria, Northwest Nigeria and Southeast Nigeria.
What are some of the unique challenges for girls in Nigeria when it comes to pursuing an education in engineering/science?
- Lack of basic educational and social amenities
- Inadequate teaching aids
- Poverty - Most parents cannot afford to feed their children as well as send them to school, especially in rural communities. This is one of the reasons the program was targeted at the rural communities.
- Cultural perception of girls in Nigeria - Old notions or stereotypes exist saying that girls are only meant to marry and give birth. That narrative is changing thanks in part to the Invent it. Build it. program.
What is the significance of naming the center after Engr. Dr. Maikanti Baru?
Engr. Dr. Maikanti Baru is the foremost and only engineering role model from the town and state. He is a top civil servant from the zone and also the group managing director of our partner, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). We structured the program in such a way that we use role models in the locality as a point of contact and we use their achievements to tell our STEM story to young students.
How would you describe the effect that the engineering role models have on the girls?
The children are more likely to connect with and accept our message from a role model they know or recognize. Someone they can identify with that speaks their language, eats their cuisine and dresses like them. They see these local role models as one of them; they listen to them and desire to be like them.