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The Transformative Journey of STEM Camps for Girls in Côte d’Ivoire

August 31, 2023

By Kathryn Goldman, Associate Director, Gender and Social Inclusion, Department of Compact Operations and Haya Ghazale, Intern

Campers participating in the Science track learn how chemicals come together to make soap.

MCA-Côte d’Ivoire

Middle school girls in rural Côte d’Ivoire may face barriers to educational success such as long distances to secondary school, early pregnancy or marriage, and lack of support—but one thing they do not lack is intellectual curiosity. As kids in the U.S. headed off to their own summer camps, more than 500 girls in the San Pedro and Gbêkê regions in Côte Ivoire applied to join the two regional camps organized by MCA Côte d’Ivoire.

As the world continues to progress into an era of technology and innovation, ensuring that everyone has equal access to educational opportunities and resources to work in the science and technology fields becomes essential. In Côte d’Ivoire, MCC works closely with the Ministry of National Education and Literacy (MENA) and their office of Gender Equity and Equality to implement the national Gender in Education Policy and Action Plan. This plan, which was developed with MCC support, includes improving girls' access to education and training in the STEM fields.

Girls from the engineering division put their technical skills to work, building a functional robot using lessons learned during their STEM camp sessions.

MCA-Côte d’Ivoire

Last month, 100 girls ranging from 11 to 15 years of age, traveled from their mostly rural communities to two highly experiential STEM camps held in the regional capitals of the San Pedro and Bouake regions. Funded by MCC, the week-long camps aimed to unlock the potential of girls by teaching them concrete skills in the field of their choice (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) and then putting them in charge of ambitious projects like creating their own apps, filtering their own water, building their own robots, or making their own sound systems.

Ninth grader Marie P. was enthusiastic about the interactive format: “Through the exciting workshops at the camp, I discovered my interest in science and technology. Making soap, treating water, making paper, and learning about soil pH were incredible moments of discovery for me.”

Marie P. discovered her interest in science and technology by participating in the camp.

MCA-Côte d’Ivoire

For many campers, leaving home to try this new experience was initially quite intimidating. “I was a little scared because I didn't know what to expect. But gradually I learned to adapt," said Marie P.

This resonated with many of the girls who started the week never having used computers or considered studying STEM subjects. The shared challenge fostered collaboration and cohesion among them. In their evening debriefs, they discussed their progress, provided feedback, eagerly nominated each other as group representatives, and supported each other through any difficulties they encountered.

The closing ceremony came all too soon, and the girls proudly presented to their parents and community leaders the results of their papermaking, the apps and websites they created, the robots they built to detect rain, and the speaker system built on the foundation of mathematical principles.

According to one parent, Mrs. Kouassi Ahou Cecile: "I'm so happy to come to see my daughter participate in this camp, so much so that if I was younger and a student, I would have participated in the camp too."

In addition to impressing the parents, members of the regional offices of the Ministry of Education and the mayor’s office along with other local officials attended several days of the camp and were so impressed that they committed to supporting future camps with their own resources.