28 January 2014

Uganda: Female Engineer Graduates with Top Marks, Inspires Other Women to Pursue Science

London — There were two unusual things about the graduation of the 2012 Civil Engineering class at St Joseph's Technical Institute in Kisubi, Uganda.

One was the fact that there was a woman in the group, the other was that she was graduating with top marks in her class.

After rejecting a job offer from the Ugandan education minister soon after graduating, Godliver Businge began work as a trainer at Global Women's Water Initiative (GWWI), an organization that focuses on teaching women to bring sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) solutions to their communities.

Businge's mission is to inspire women in her native Uganda to pursue careers in engineering and become financially independent.

Thomson Reuters Foundation talked to Businge about breaking stereotypes and empowering women.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue a career in engineering?

A: In Uganda people used to think that construction, civil engineering and mechanical work were for men. I wanted to break this stereotype that certain jobs are for men and others are for women. I also wanted to show people that women can do the same things that men can do.

Q: What was your experience at school as the only woman in your class?

A: It wasn't easy because people were telling me I couldn't do it (pursue a career in engineering) and were suggesting that I should take a different course such as electrical or business.

But then, when I came second in the class during practical exams, everyone was very surprised and they couldn't believe (I could achieve it). I proved them wrong and then things changed.

People now look at me as a role model, someone who is different. Many young people are following in my footsteps and many are starting to think that women really can do men's jobs.

Q: What is the importance of convincing women that they can do anything that men can do and can pursue careers which used to be thought of as men's?

A: In Uganda women are being left behind. We want to make sure women are empowered, that they can get contracts and make money, so they don't have to depend on men.

In many villages in Uganda women have to take care of their households because men do not think this is their responsibility.

So when we teach women construction and then they are contracted to build a Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrine, they don't have to ask their husbands to give them money any more.

So it's not only about changing the stereotype, but also about empowering women so that they can make a living out of what they learn.

Q: What was men's reaction to the change they were seeing?

A: Men were amazed when they saw us working on site, so I think that's something really good.

At first they thought I was challenging them and didn't believe (I would succeed), but then they said "good, you've done it".

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