The sky seems very far away but today more than any other time in history it is within reach for every girl who dared to dream with it.
The Woman Post | Mónica Liliana Pradilla
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UniSat, a free 5-month educational program for girls and women launched in March jointly by UNICEF and the Science and Technology Park of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Kazakhstan, aimed to teach participants how to create, design, program, assemble and launch nanosatellites weighing less than 10 kilograms into space.
On October 30th these nanosatellites, built by the 20 women of the UniSat program, left for the stars. The devices will take high-resolution images of the earth and the stars, as well as collect data on the composition of radiation, pressure, gravity, light, and gas in the atmosphere.
Regardless of the origin, we have all once looked at the sky and dreamed of touching it, of visiting a star. Many of us once responded that we wanted to be astronauts when we were asked what we wanted to do when we grew up.
But touching the stars is not achieved in one way alone and many places in the world, it is the alternative ways, the ventures and dreams that go beyond the canon of the rocket into outer space, that end up fulfilling dreams and much more than that.
Not to mention the obstacles.
In Kazakhstan, particularly women and girls between the ages of 10 and 24 represent almost a fifth of the total population, and although the country had, as of 2018, according to the latest data published by UNESCO, a literacy rate of 99.78% in the total population and a rate of 99. 73% in women, with almost 99% of primary schooling in the whole country, the participation of women in science is still low and a high priority issue for UNICEF and its ambassadors, who seek, together with the government, to include programs with a greater presence of STEM components in the early education of women in the country.
Unfortunately, being a woman is one of them. Not for free, the number of women in science careers remains low. A report from this year's UNESCO Institute for Statistics noted that "less than 30% of the people in the world doing research are women (...)" and in addition to this "numerous studies have found that women in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) publish less, are paid less for their research and do not rise as high as men in their careers."
"Women and girls can drive the frontier work, discoveries, and technologies of tomorrow. The UniSat initiative puts dynamic young women and girls at the forefront of the future of work and crucial economic sectors," says Arthur van Diesen, UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan.
It is true, the world has come a long way, gender roles no longer strictly define our aspirations and what we want or can do. But they do mean limitations, prejudices, less space, and more obstacles.
Fortunately, they are not impossible to overcome, nor do they lack allies and drivers along the way.
"I am a dreamer. If I have a goal, I will do everything possible to achieve it," said Amina Sadu, 17, a participant in the program.