FELICIA AGUBATA is the President, Association of Professional Women Engineers (APWEN), a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers. The body is a vehicle for women professional development. In this interview w, she throws more light on engineering education, women involvement in decision-making and implementation levels in science, technology and engineering as well as other issues.
Looking back at Association of Professional Women Engineers (APWEN) existence, what are the association’s successes and challenges in the drive to raise the available level of technical manpower needed in the country?
APWEN has come a long way as the vehicle of support and professional development for the Nigerian female engineers.
We encourage women in engineering to grow in the profession, leading to outstanding achievements.
We enhance competence of women engineers through professional development as well as provide platform for female engineering students and women engineers to excel.
We encourage the girl-child to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Not only has the body succeeded in her advocacy at encouraging more girls to study engineering but it has also been intensifying efforts at ensuring that female engineers practice engineering.
We have produced a lot of firsts in the nation and globally.
The first female president of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering/ APWEN founding president and the first female registered engineer in Nigeria is Olutunmbi Joanna Maduka; The first African Vice President of World Federation of Engineering Organisation (WFEO)/chair women in Engineering (WIE) is one of us, Valerie Ifueko Agberagba nee Aghedo; The first female president of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Nigeria (ACEN) and Gamma of FIDIC is Mrs. Mayen Adetiba FNSE.
First President of Women Init Network (WIN) of Exxon Mobil is Dr. Patricia Opene-Odili and lots of others.
I can conveniently say that APWEN has departed the station but are yet to reach our destination. We will continue to press for the progress of the emergent Nigerian woman in the engineering profession.
The association’s membership has grown from six female engineers in 1982 to more than 750 members.
How do you equip female engineers with right skills would have increasing opportunities to excel and pursue their dreams in any of their chosen fields?
The official launch of APWEN was actually in 1983 .We will celebrate our 35th anniversary later in the year with over 3,000 members.
We will also celebrate our six courageous founders who are indeed the heroines of engineering Joanna Maduka, Nkechi Isigwe, Mayen Adetiba, Idiat Amusu, Nwakaego Ojukwu and Beatrice Oduniyi.
We encourage our engineers to develop soft skills in leadership and entrepreneurship.
The association is in collaboration with sister bodies both locally and internationally aimed at continuously increasing the awareness on engineering opportunities and platforms to imbibe best practices.
We organize conferences, seminars and embark on industrial visits in furtherance of this objective.
APWEN struck an agreement with Nigerian University Commission (NUC) and ten tertiary institutions for the provision of modern facilities.
Do your association still support the National Universities’ Engineering Workshops Intervention Project (NUEWI-Project) if no; do you plan to revive it?
We plan to revive the NUEWI project to see how we can re-prioritize to reflect capacities vis a vis the needs of the institutions.
To that extent it remains a project 0f keen interest.
Additionally, we are presently taking our advocacy and intervention initiatives to the primary schools based on recent global decline in STEM field’s enrollment.
The new focus globally is on catching them young.
We are keying into that trend locally through the “Invent It, Build It” Programme, introduce a girl to engineering, career talks at schools, scholarships to best student in science (primary) and engineering for university undergraduates.
What ways do APWEN collaborate with governments and the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) to foster the interest of women engineers across the country?
We have collaboration and partnership with government agencies, local and multinationals companies that share similar ideals and objectives with APWEN.
An example is the partnership we recently flagged off with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) a programme called Invent It, Build It; aimed at encouraging young girls in primary schools to study STEM.
We also enjoy support from state governments and some National Assembly members.
This was evident during 2018 international women’s day when we celebrated some distinguished female engineers as well as illustrious females in sundry professions who are pressing for the progress of the emergent Nigerian woman.
Girl child education has remained a Knotty issue, especially in Northern Nigeria, What are your plans to assist students and ensure girls embrace career in engineering?
Decline in girl child education is a national issue and we have started a programme aimed at complimenting government initiatives in that regard across the six-geo political zones of the country.
The name of the programme is “Invent It, Build It”.
This was successfully flagged off at Sarki Ahmad Primary school (Central Primary school) Misau, Bauchi state.
School materials were distributed to the students along with Laptops for their schools.
Scholarships were also awarded to ten female’s students of Misau origin who desire to study engineering from primary to the university level.
A foundation for the building of an ultra-modern science and technology laboratory was laid.
The scholarship and science laboratory were both named after one of their illustrious sons, an engineer of repute and a best in class material; the group Managing director of NNPC; Dr. Maikanti Baru engineering scholarship for girls and Dr. Maikanti Baru Science and Technology Laboratory.
In line with APWEN’s 2018 focus on strategic capacity building for sustainable rural development and for the technological advancement of Nigeria, participants were involved in a hands-on science activities to unleash their latent, creativity and analytical skills.
They were also educated about the basic principles of engineering using fun-filled, interactive and practical methods with abundant locally available materials.
Alongside the Invent it, Build it event there was a parents’/guardians’ interactive session focusing on addressing any gender bias issues, providing insights on the opportunities and rewards for women in Engineering and eliciting their support/participation to nurture these kids.
This programme is targeted at primary school pupils because we believe that there is need to ignite the passion for science, technology and mathematics at primary school level.
This would improve the prospects of more potential engineers in the net than would be the case ordinarily. An integral part of this programme is a guidance and counseling session for parents and guardians.
The 0bjective is to leverage on multiple influences to advance the children’s/wards’ interest in the sciences.
We will launch same programme in Borno, Kano, Edo (June 29, 2018 at Ewuare primary school, Oliha quarters Benin City), Anambra (Uruekwo primary school Enugwu-Ukwu), Akwa-Ibom, Ogun, Kogi (LEA primary school Ankpa) and Delta States.
In the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable Development, gender equality is fundamental to delivering on the promises of sustainability, peace and human progress.
Is your association satisfied with the representation of women engineering at all decision-making and implementations levels in science, technology and engineering (STE) in all relevant government establishments?
We are constructively dissatisfied with the present representation and that is why we are encouraging our members to go and stand in for elective positions for the advancement of our country.
Women engineers in decision making positions will continue to explore opportunities to improve what is obtainable at the present with the view to bringing about the changes that we crave to see.
In time past, the association observed that gender discrimination arising from social stereotyping affects attitudes and expectations of women thus affecting their ability to venture into male dominated professions.
Do this still happen? If yes, how?
This was in the past. Not anymore. Instead, we advocate for collaboration with the men and do not see them as superior.
No gender is inferior to the other and no gender is equal to the other too. We are first and foremost human beings and we all belong to one race, for instance, the human race.
We are all uniquely endowed and should bring to the table our strengths for societal advancement.
It is in appreciation of this imperative that diversity and inclusion has become the right approach to harness all the talents that are potentially available.