To Create Gems

....Being Speech Delivered By Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, Ag. Managing Director/Ceo, Niger Delta Development Commission, Nddc, At The Grand Finale Of The Girls In Engineering, Mathematics And Science, (GEMS) Programme, Wednesday, April 6, 2016
By Ibim Semenitari

“As a woman in science, I sincerely hope that my receiving a Nobel Prize will send a message to young women everywhere that the doors are open to them and that they should follow their dreams.”

- Linda B. Buck: Biologist who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

The greatness and power of countries are interrelated, in no small measure, with the top priority they accord science and technology. From Israel to Germany, United States to India, and many more, innovation in and growth of great countries is largely driven by science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). STEM-related careers create huge employment opportunities, for, as the UK Commission for Employment and Skills states in a recent report, “STEM skills are crucial to innovation and growth.”

Indeed, recent statistics suggest that over 90 per cent of emerging job opportunities are in STEM-related careers. Unfortunately, only a mere 14 per cent of women globally eventually find themselves in STEM-related careers. This situation is even more worrisome for us in Nigeria. While statistics from National Bureau of Statistics show there are 102 men for every 100 women in Nigeria, this gender parity in the population is not reflected in the enrolment figures at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education.

What this means is that whereas there are enormous employment opportunities in STEM-related careers, the female population is not adequately represented at, nor properly equipped by, various levels of education. Above all, despite the gender parity in Nigeria’s population, women are not enough in, nor duly prepared for STEM-related careers. This is why, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has chosen to support the Girls in Engineering, Mathematics & Science, GEMS.

GEMS is a programme borne out of our desire, as well as our social commitment and responsibility, to bridge the gaps that exist in gender related issues we encounter in our earnest effort to facilitate the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region. Of great importance is the science and technology areas, which are very vital in ensuring that our people begin to play a more definitive role in the oil and gas sector, which predominate activities in the Niger Delta.

The mission of Girls in Engineering, Mathematics and Science, GEMS is to promote innovative, research and standards-based practices, which will encourage students with interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to thrive in the 21st century global economy. The programme hopes to leverage on its extensive network of expertise, partnerships, resources and experience by providing Niger Delta girls who have shown remarkable brilliance in these areas the needed platform to excel and grow as scientists.

We believe that science and technology can become exciting again, for our young ones. GEMS presents a healthy competition that helps our girls interpret science in such a way that we can use science, in a glamorous way, to do every day things, and resolve every day challenges. The 33 finalists, all from SSS1 and SSS2, are beginning to see the practicality of science, even at that young age, and it becomes a foundation upon which they and other children of the Niger Delta, as well as the schools in the region, will build our collective future. That is why, as part of this programme, the school that produces the first prize winner will get a chemistry laboratory, while the second and third schools will get a physics and biology laboratory, respectively. We are also going to reward the girls with prizes, such as laptops.

These finalists were selected from a rigorous elimination process that began with 2880 girls from the nine NDDC mandate states. From this first screening test 1110 girls were selected. From the 1110, 270 were selected at 30 girls per state. They progressed to the state finals, where 11 girls qualified from each state, leading to the regional finals, where 11 girls were selected from each of the three regions. Of the 33 who will participate in the grand finale, 10 would be selected for recognition, while the top five will receive awards, prizes and scholarships.

In initiating GEMS, we are igniting a spark within these young, remarkable women, as well as in society, which we expect to build into a fire that will lead to great things. It is good for our society, and good for the Niger Delta region. It is good for our collective future. Consequently, we call on other well-meaning organisations across the Niger Delta, especially oil and gas companies, to partner with us on the GEMS programme, so that it becomes a worthy and engaging incubator for breeding young ladies who will grow up to conquer the world in various STEM-related careers.

Although some of the girls have been picked as finalists, we regard all the girls who participated in GEMS at different stages as pioneers of an emerging revolution. They all are beacons for many more girls who will participate in future editions of GEMS.

And to you, our GEMS, I leave these final words. You have all shown that you have within you precious beads of excellence with which you can produce little sparks that can illuminate the world. You have innate qualities with which you can open doors of greater opportunities in future and change the world. You have shown that our young girls can channel science and technology to help tackle the enormous challenges inherent in giving our people a better life.

You have all shown that you have what it takes to be future Nobel Prize winners. And if I may echo the words of Linda Buck, I sincerely hope that your work here, as well as the recognition you all receive will send a message to young women everywhere that the doors are open to them and that they should follow their dreams.

Thank you and God bless you all.