Claris Nadini, a MasterCard Scholar, is a second-year student at Ashesi University, Ghana, studying Mechanical Engineering. Claris currently serves as the founder and chair of Badili Zone Organization based in Mukuru Kwa Reuben, Nairobi, Kenya, that is aiming at ensuring every student has access to quality education, adequate learning materials, guidance, and mentorship that will enable them to be educated goal-driven young leaders while accessing financial support to further their education. She is a Millennium Fellow for the Class of 2019. It is an opportunity presented by The Millennium Campus Network (MCN) and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) with the aim of elevating undergraduate students’ leadership. Claris did her A-levels in Maths, Physics and Further Maths at African Science Academy (ASA), Ghana, which is a new, girls-only Advanced Level school for maths and science. She loves dancing, watching comedy, reading, socializing, and coding. Her favorite quote is by Emile Zola, “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”
Why did you get into STEM?
The low participation of women in STEM activities has been an international phenomenon, because even in countries generally regarded as progressive, women are still underutilized in STEM activities. For such a long time there has been a universally accepted “truth” about women and STEM careers; they are socialized to avoid STEM as career choices because society considers it “unfeminine.” Popular culture plays a role, as well. Girls grow up, I being one of them, seeing women in powerful positions as doctors and lawyers on television, but the media continues to promote a male stereotype when it comes to STEM courses such as programmers and developers. We cannot keep on having inaccurate and outdated ideas about women and STEM.
I agree with what the UN stated; the world needs science and science needs women. When women join the STEM field, they will be able to influence the scientific decisions being made. There is a clear difference between a decision made solely by the male gender and one that has the influence of women because the latter is more inclusive of all parties’ needs. Therefore, if you ask me why I decided to join STEM aside the fact that I wanted to break the misguided stereotype, I would comfortably say, “I joined STEM because STEM needs women, and I decided to make it my business to be one of them.”
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
My greatest achievement is being able to have done what I really wanted in life, in terms of personal fulfillment and social impact. I am the current founder/chair of Badili Zone Organization. Badili Zone Organization is a registered CBO in Embakasi South constituency, Nairobi Kenya. Badili is a Kiswahili word meaning change. The Badili Zone Organization’s vision and mission is what we call the “Beyond Zero” (It’s beyond zero because zero number of students will not be able to access high-quality education, and we are aiming to eradicate even the idea of being comfortable with not obtaining high-quality education while living in the slum).
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
The current society has entirely not come to terms with the fact that women can also do STEM courses. Therefore, aside from the fact that I have to get used to the surprise expressions I see on people’s faces whenever I mention the fact that I am doing Mechanical Engineering, most of the other challenges were mostly related to the practicality of the science that students learn in high school. However, being a woman in STEM, I am still prepared for other challenges that I might face while working in the STEM industry. I have not experienced them yet, but I know I should be ready for any.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
As you decide on considering joining STEM, just remember, STEM needs women, and one of them happens to be you. So DON’T let anything/anyone stop you.