BY FESTUS OSEJI
Association of Professional Women Engineers in Nigeria APWEN, for the first time in Nigeria join other women engineers across the world to celebrate the International Women in Engineering Day 2020. Hosted virtually, the celebration, provided the opportunity for clarion call for collaboration between women professional bodies and their male professional bodies.
The virtual conference in the engineering sector with the theme “The role of women in shaping the world” had in attendance His Excellency Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, the executive governor of Kebbi State ably represented by the Secretary to the State Government Alhaji Umar Babale; the chairman of the occasion and the president of the Nigerian Society and Engineers (NSE) Engr. Babagana Mohammed, FNSE; the special guest of honour Engr. Ali A. Rabiu, FNSE, president of the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN); Engr. Mustafa Balarabe Shehu, FNSE, Executive Vice President World Federation of Engineering Organization (WFEO); Deputy Chief Whip Hon. Barr. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Isuikwato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency of Abia State; Engr. Mrs. Aramide M. Adeyoye, Special Adviser Works to the executive governor of Lagos State; Engr. Unoma Nwafulugo, The Rector Federal Polythecnic Oko, Anambra State; The First Female Head of Service of the Federation; Engr. Ebele Okeke, FNSE.
Other dignitaries and panelist include the Wife of the Deputy Governor of Delta State who is also a member of APWEN Engr. Dr. Ebierin Otuaro, FNSE; Engr. Robinson Ejina; the pionneer president of the association Engr. Mrs. Joanna Olu Maduka, FNSE, the Immediate Past President of the Academy of Engineering of Nigeria,; Engr. Mrs. Idiatu Aderemi Amosu, FNSE.
The president of APWEN Engr. Mrs. Funmilola Ojelade, FNSE, expressed her delight over the event which is the maiden edition of the celebration in Nigeria. She historically told the audience how important the International Women in Engineering day, stating that “I am delighted to welcome you all to this very auspicious event marking the maiden celebration of the International Women in Engineering day in Nigeria. It is indeed historic to have this event which is designed to bring into reckoning the very commendable contributions of women in engineering development world over- so celebrated”
“INWED is an international awareness campaign which raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in the engineering world. National Women in Engineering Day was launched for the first time in the UK on 23 June 2014, by the Women Engineering Society (WES) – a partnering organization with The Royal Academy of Engineering, to celebrate its 95th anniversary. Since its launch in 2014 the event has grown tremendously over the years to attract UNESCO’s patronage in 2016”.
“In 2017, National Women in Engineering Day became internationally recognized due to the interest and enthusiasm demonstrated by the international community of scientists and engineers in the previous years after the commencement of the well lauded initiative”.
The president also in her speech informed the participants on how far the association has succeeded in her projects over the years by partnering with some global bodies to promote girl child education and most especially the STEM activities in Nigeria.
According to Engr. Ojelade, “APWEN entered into a productive partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, United Kingdom in 2019 with the SHEengineer Invent It, Build It Project. The SHEengineer Invent it, Build it project was awarded a grant by the Royal Academy of Engineering UK under the GCFR African catalyst programme which is in phase 3 presently. This project is a capacity building program of APWEN for female engineers, STEM teachers and public secondary school pupils in JSS1 & 2 in the six geo political zones of Nigeria”.
“The aim of the GCRF Africa Catalyst programme is to strengthen professional engineering bodies in sub-Saharan Africa to effectively promote the profession, share best practice and increase local engineering capacity to help drive development. Hence, our desire to meet the global requirement of promoting diversity, has provided APWEN with the impetus to be the first Association to advocate for girl-child STEM education in Nigeria and also among the first few professional engineering institutions in Nigeria to develop a gender and diversity policy to encourage the inclusive growth of members from diverse backgrounds- for this we indeed are grateful”.
The immediate past president of the APWEN Engr. Dr. Felicia Agubata, FNSE, in delivering her speech told the the participants that APWEN has grown in length and breadth locally and globally and also on a mission to bridge the gender gap in engineering.
“ APWEN is on a mission to close the gender gap in engineering, and to change the image of what an engineer looks like and does, as we continue on our programme ‘WHY ENGINEERING SHOULD BE A WOMAN’S GAME’ project tagged: SheEngineer, a capacity-building program under the remit of the Royal Academy of Engineering UK; a delivery partner for the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). I see it as a great privilege to be an awardee of this prestigious grant.”
Engr. Agubata also added that there is a great need and, as matter of urgency to collaborate with other engineering bodies in the country like NSE, COREN etc and institutions of higher learning to ensure more women engineers are produced through the study of STEM in our schools and encouraged women to take up leadership roles in engineering related positions.
In his remarks the president of NSE, Engr. Babagana Mohammed, FNSE, appreciates APWEN members for their resilience and job well done while appealing to the association for more collaboration so as to move the engineering profession forward and faster. He also assured the members that NSE under his leadership will continue to support APWEN on its activities.
Speaking on the theme of the webinar conference during panel discussion Engr. Idiat Aderemi Amosu, FNSE, an agricultural engineer reiterated some of the challenges female engineers faced over time and are still facing till date in the field of engineering in Nigeria and in other part of the world. She said “the biased perception of male engineers against the female engineers needs to be changed for the profession to move forward. There are a lots of innuendos that is affecting women in the engineering profession, for instance unlike other profession the engineering body have not had a female president like other professions in the country”
She encouraged APWEN leadership to work harder to attain that pinnacle of leadership in engineering in Nigeria, by acquiring more skills in the profession and stand tall. She appealed to the leadership of engineering professional bodies and government to take women as they are; intelligent, organizer, leadership skills and by so doing an enabling environment is created for the women to thrive.
Engr. M.B. Shehu while responding to the moderator’s question said “globally, a lot has been done to create an enabling environment for women to succeed in their chosen careers and as we can see many women are doing great things all over the world. For instance we have female president in some countries today. He encouraged the women to never give up the fight for leadership position and shouldn’t wait for it to be given because “you are a woman”.
Engr. Robinson was of the opinion that the policy need to be engaged so as to create a level playing field among the engineers, be it male or female engineers. One of the foreign panelist from Switzerland Ms Evi Viza reiterated that since over time female has always been treated as second class citizens, for instance most technology advancement in the world were produce to suit the male without consideration of the female, like ‘the car seat belt’ how do you expect a pregnant woman to wear it?
To improve on the gender parity in the work place Engr. Mrs. Patricia Opene-Odili, FNSE, advised her professional colleagues to take it easy with the male and study hard to show themselves approved at all time. While Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha in her speech appreciated APWEN efforts in promoting girl-child education in Nigeria. She also encouraged women generally to be focused and take up leadership position by fire and by force. And, that women should not allow their voice to be swallowed up.
She said “ As a woman, to succeed in this environment, we need to work ten times than the male counter part to be recognized, in this society, women are not given the opportunity to thrive”.
The event also witnessed recognition and award to different leaders in their capacity, past leaders of the association, one such awards was the diversity ambassador award presented to Engr. Ali A. Rabiu, President of COREN, Engr. Babagana Mohammed President of NSE, and Engr. M.B. Shehu. Other awardee include that of Engr. Fatima Allah Yewa, FNSE, the first female engineer from the northern Nigeria, Engr. Mrs. Joanna Olu Maduka, the pioneer president of APWEN and the first female president of the Academy of Engineering of Nigeria.
Engr. Mrs. Funmilola Ojelade, FNSE, President of APWEN