Insights from Equate’s Director – August 2021

I am delighted to welcome everyone back from summer recess.   Hopefully, you’ve managed to find some time for relaxing, enjoying the sunshine – and of course the opportunity to once again catch up with friends and family.  My staycation this year was full of friends, food and reacquainting myself with visits to old and much-loved places.

Staying with that sunny disposition I am delighted to confirm that our funding bid to Inspiring Scotland was successful.   We are very grateful to have been one of the 48 successful organisations out of 242 applicants, we are indeed counting our blessings that we can continue the Equate Scotland journey, supporting more students, women, and employers in STEM.

While we awaited the outcome of our funding bid – it’s fair to say we were feeling a little nervous. But while this last year has had lots of tensions and change, none of that compares to the rapid, unfolding of events in Afghanistan and the overnight changes impacting the lives of girls and women – and also those men and organisations who have supported or facilitated those changes over the last 20 years.

The generation of the last 20 years almost overnight find themselves catapulted back to a world where all the rights, freedoms, and protections they have grown up with, come to expect and enjoy, are no more.

Afghanistan in the last 20 years has benefited from the inclusion and contribution of women in its whole society but who can tell what is now in store for them, their lives, hopes, and dreams?

One legacy from Afghanistan is that I hope we can take inspiration from looking at how the lives of women and girls were changed in 20 years, and also that we reflect on how quickly so much of that progress and achievement is already undone.

If it’s hard for women in STEM in this country to break through, just think about the challenges and barriers that were overcome in the last 20 years for women and girls in Afghanistan.  Earlier this year, Forbes listed the Afghan Girls Robotics Team among its list of 30 scientists and inventors under age 30 in Asia. What will this return to Taliban rule now mean for their hopes and ambitions?  How must they be processing the dramatic changes that are unfolding on a daily basis and how will that play out for them in the coming days and months?

Access to education, as always, is the key that unlocks opportunity and potential – but especially when girls and women have access to education. But it’s not just in education where women have taken great strides in Afghanistan  – but also in public life and democratic processes, as of July 2021, 27% of Afghan members of parliament were women – equivalent to the U.S. percentage of female representatives in Congress and in comparison women representation is 34% in Westminster and 45% in Scotland.

So many women and men have openly and actively embraced the new freedoms and opportunities that the last 20 years have brought – but looking at the heartbreaking and desperate scenes from the airport highlighted so shockingly the stark reality of what many citizens anticipate what is to come.

But we also have a global impending crisis – a climate one. With the need to accelerate to greener ways of living and working it will, we are told, create new opportunities, requiring new skills and fresh talent.  Yet, despite the current vacancy rate across the STEM sector, and forecasted new roles, getting more girls and women into STEM education, apprenticeships and jobs remains a significant challenge.  However, at this time, our opportunity to improve that pipeline is still a live and vibrant one.

So when it comes to our societal and climate challenges, what will our legacy be? We should count our blessings that we still have the time, choice, opportunity and resources to make that just transition for our society and our planet.  Let’s hope that 20 years from now our legacy will be one that did indeed seized the day.

If you would like to find out more about the work that aid agencies are undertaking in Afghanistan please see the below organisations: