$43,600 to cover educational fees for Ukrainian girls, a panel discussion with the First Lady of Ukraine and young activists, collaboration with foreign diplomats and international organizations—all these have become the culmination of the global educational art project SHE is SCIENCE. Sapar Karyagdyyev, Head of Gamingtec and one of the project’s initiators, told us about the goals of the project and why they started it.
On June 10, Kyiv hosted one of the most unusual events of this year. The event was organized by the charity educational project STEM is FEM. It united the awarding ceremony of the nationwide essay competition SHE is SCIENCE, a charity auction that allowed to raise educational grants for the winners, and a panel discussion with the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, about gender equality.
But what preceded the solemn event? According to an initiator of SHE is SCIENCE Sapar Karyagdyyev, this project had a few goals: spreading information among the general public about prominent Ukrainian female scientists, establishing gender equality in the scientific field, and popularizing science among youngsters.
“Not only in Ukraine but all over the world as well, there is a serious gender imbalance in the scientific and technical spheres. According to recent statistics, this problem is not only ethical but also a financial and economic one. In any area, gender equality results in increased productivity. And the fact that the achieved justice is so gratifying is just a nice bonus,” Karyagdyyev notes.
The project used a unique approach to implementing its plans. The organizers decided to avoid the traditional methods, such as holding conferences, forums, or competitions among journalists. Instead, the first stage of the project implied creating a series of 12 illustrations portraying prominent female scientists of different generations. The project invited modern popular Ukrainian illustrators to join this creative process: Sergiy Maidukov, Anna Ivanenko, Anna Sarvira, Zhenya Polosina, and Olga Degtiarova.
“All artworks are highly engaging. They are quite accurate portraits that show not only the features of a person but also her character, as well as the sphere of science she works in. There are mathematicians, physicists, physicians, and biologists among our heroines, and each of them is, first of all, a personality,” emphasizes Sapar Karyagdyyev.
Then, the organizers came up with another outside-the-box idea. To attract the attention of as many girls as possible, they organized an essay competition. Participants aged 14 to 21 were offered to tell the public about one of the heroines of the project, her contribution to the development of science, the way it has changed the world, and how these women can inspire the future generation of young scientists.
“We have received over half a thousand works. Most of them were imbued with a sincere interest in the scientist they were writing about and in the related branch of science. And what is most interesting, in the letters there were also many new points of view on the phenomenon of women in science—new reasons to promote gender equality and new ways to popularize science among girls. The curators of the STEM is FEM project appreciate each participant for her thoughts,” shared Sapar Karyagdyyev.
The finalists were awarded on June 10 in Kyiv. The girls received valuable prizes from the organizers and sponsors of the project: from tickets to their favourite music band concert with an invitation to the after-party to grants for education. The author of the best essay, the Grand Prix winner of the competition, Anastasiia Suvorova from Kyiv, wrote her essay about ornithologist Natalia Atamas.
“Perhaps, this choice determined the fate of the main prize. The famous bird researcher herself turned into a bluebird of happiness for a young student of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. As a reward, the girl has received $35,900 to cover her educational expenses at any institution in the world. $4,000 was a guaranteed amount from the organizers, while $31,900 was collected during a charity auction that was yet another “feature” of our project,” Karyagdyyev said.
The subjects of the auction were the 12 portraits of scientists with the signatures of the illustrators, as well as lots from partners and sponsors of the project: jewellery, outfits, brunches, and even a helicopter ride over Chernobyl.
The biggest surprise was the visit of the First Lady to the event. Olena Zelenska discussed with young Ukrainian public activists the prospects for the development of civil society in Ukraine, ways to promote gender equality, and social inclusion.
The next stage of the project is creating a travelling exhibition of paintings and essays. The interactive exhibition can already be visited in Kyiv until June 24. Further, the exhibition will go to Mariupol, Zaporizhzhia, Kryvyi Rih, and other cities of Ukraine.
Any educational institution of Ukraine, be it a school, university, library, or any other organization, can order a copy of the exhibition from the organizers free of charge.
The project was created with the support of the UN Women in Ukraine and the United Nations Children’s Fund in Ukraine (UNICEF).
STEM is FEM is a charitable educational project aimed at combatting gender stereotypes in the technical field and motivating Ukrainian schoolgirls to choose STEM specialties. Within the framework of the project, numerous free educational events are held in Ukraine.