The Communications Office Photo by Marc Campos
a view of Occidental College's Los Angeles campus from above

Stephen Amankonah Sekyere ’27 and Eleanor Goddard ’25 have been selected as members of the 2024 Project for Peace grantee cohort. They will travel to Ghana this summer to build support for girls in STEM.

Each year, Projects for Peace awards $10,000 grants to student peacebuilders to develop innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues. This summer, Sekyere and Goddard will implement their project, “Seeds of equity: Empowering young girls in Ablekuma through technological access and STEM promotion.” The project aims to build stronger and more sustainable science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) foundations for girls in Ablekuma, Ghana.

“By planting seeds of equity, we seek to bridge the gap in STEM representation by supporting young girls to ascend to higher positions in STEM careers,” wrote Sekyere and Goddard in their project statement. “We aim to do this while also promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity.”

Sekyere and Goddard’s interest in this project arose not only from their academic involvement in STEM at Occidental, but their childhood experiences with the Ghanaian education system. Both lived in Ghana for extended periods of time and witnessed firsthand how technology distribution in the country’s schools has contributed to gender discrimination.

By planting seeds of equity, we seek to bridge the gap in STEM representation by supporting young girls to ascend to higher positions in STEM careers.

“We were taken aback when we saw not only how Alpha Morning-Dew Montessori School, but also most schools in Ablekuma, lack the necessary information and communication technology (ICT) and science materials to effectively train their students,” Sekyere and Goddard wrote. “We believe this lack of resources is directly attributable to the massive amounts of dropouts seen in the region, with only 40 percent of junior high school graduates being female and a rate of 60 percent of female students dropping their STEM courses during their first year in senior high school.”

Only 30 percent of science professionals in Africa are women, according to data from the 2021 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Science Report 2021. In Ablekuma specifically, the Gender Parity Index (GPI) scores for STEM access were 0.48 and 0.47 in the 2021–22 and 2022–23 school years, respectively, meaning that for every male student who has access to technology, fewer than 0.5 female students have that same access. This disparity has led to female students in Ablekuma underperforming on the ICT portion of the Basic Education Certificate Examination.

Sekyere and Goddard’s four-week program includes two phases. In the first phase, they will raise awareness of STEM stigmatization among Ablekuma parents, partnering with the chief, queen, and assemblywoman to give community presentations in the Ga language. They will simultaneously provide technology seminars, workshops, and resources to girls at Alpha Morning-Dew Montessori School. The second phase will introduce students to digital resources so that they can access online education courses, such as Canvas, Mathematica, and Khan Academy, outside of the classroom.

By involving volunteer organizations in the Ablekuma community, Sekyere and Goddard hope to make their project sustainable even after their departure.

“Our definition of peace is to give back to the culture that raised us and provide equality for all genders and races and to enact positive change that will empower women over the course of a lifetime.”

International philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis established the Projects for Peace program in 2007 on her 100th birthday, committing $1 million for the first 100 projects. To date, more than 2,000 Projects for Peace have been implemented in more than 150 countries.