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Although women make up the majority of university students worldwide, only 35% of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related studies are women. That’s why Girl Up is on a mission to bridge this staggering gender gap with its WiSci Girls STEAM Camps. On July 4-9, Girl Up’s WiSci Camp traveled to Southeast Asia, where more than 70 girls from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia came together for six full days of skills-based trainings, and workshops centered around STEAM. Taught across seven American Corners centers in all three countries, the hybrid programming featured both in-person and virtual sessions on everything STEAM, from design thinking and prototyping to robotics and computing. 

“WiSci is definitely the best space for you to grow and learn and collaborate with others,” said WiSci Counselor Nadya from Indonesia. “Throughout the activities, campers and counselors can really learn more about STEAM and explore their passion. It sparks an interest to pursue higher education and make impactful work within our lives.”

In addition to building the technical capacities of aspiring STEMinists in the region, another core component of WiSci is leadership development. Focusing on critical soft skills such as teamwork and public speaking, WiSci Southeast Asia counselors and Girl Up staff led a series of interactive exercises to equip their cohorts with the resources to become more effective leaders of self, peers, and change. The effects were instantaneous.  

“We noticed on day one, girls were a bit shy,” explained WiSci counselor Haziqah from Malaysia. “But now, on day six, everyone is talkative, everyone is out of their shell, they’ve become more confident.”

To encourage this growth of self-confidence, campers were connected to successful industry leaders who quickly became supportive mentors, sharing lessons from their professional journeys, ideating future career paths, and imparting advice on how to challenge gender stereotypes as a woman in STEAM.

“My favorite part of camp was being able to collaborate with our Intel coaches because being able to broaden our skills and knowledge in the STEM industry is very important,” shared WiSci camper Janna from the Philippines. By providing free access to innovative education, valuable mentorship networks, and transformational leadership experiences, WiSci gives high school girls all over the world the opportunity to dive into the world of STEAM and explore their interests in these exciting industries. 

Yet, the campers not only learned valuable insights from their expert coaches and facilitators, but also from each other. Genuine bonds of friendship stemmed from the group discussions where honest opinions and thoughtful reflections were shared, from the breakout rooms where obstacles were overcome together, and from the evening celebrations where unique cultural traditions were showcased and embraced.

“My favorite part of the camp was definitely talking with the girls,” shared WiSci counselor Haziqah from Malaysia. “They had so many ideas, so many characters and personalities that it all made a very good environment for everyone to learn in.”  

Throughout their week of learning together, these young changemakers brainstormed how they could take a hands-on approach and continue tapping into all of this newfound knowledge to inspire positive, tangible action in their communities back home. On the last day of WiSci Southeast Asia, the campers presented these final projects, striving to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and tackle the world’s most pressing social issues with STEAM-based solutions.   

“I feel very inspired, very empowered,” said WiSci camper Angelica from Indonesia. “I feel like I’m ready to do something and take the next step…to go to university and chase my dreams.” 

Meet our three cohorts from Indonesia:
AC UNTAN
AC ITS
AC ITB
Say hello to our three cohorts from the Philippines:
AC DAVAO
AC BACOLOD
AC BATAC
And give a warm welcome to our sole cohort from Malaysia:
AC KEDAH

To hear more about how our WiSci campers are using STEM for social good in their local communities and why they became interested in STEAM in the first place, stay tuned for Part 2 of the WiSci in Southeast Asia blog series next week!

Special thanks to all of our incredible partners–the U.S. Department of State, Intel, Caterpillar Foundation, and the American Corners supported by the U.S. embassies in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia–for their generous support in making this WiSci camp possible and joining Girl Up in our commitment to achieve gender parity in STEAM. 

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