WiSci Namibia 2018 STEAM Camp Empowers Girls

Ambassador Johnson giving remarks at the WiSci closing ceremony

Delivering on the Africa Bureau’s goal to promote inclusive country-led development, the fourth Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM Camp – hosted by the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) – leveraged a unique public-private partnership to educate African and American girls in leadership, science, and technology. The 100 high school girls from Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya, eSwatini, and the United States received hands-on experience from tech industry leaders, including Intel Corporation, Google, and NASA, and explored courses on cyber security, music coding, media literacy, engineering, and leadership. The girls also received in-depth leadership and confidence-building training from the UN Foundation’s Girl Up program. Post amplified the women in technology and leadership message by inviting Dr. Knatokie Ford through the U.S. Speaker Program to carry the camp’s themes across the country through speaking engagements and media interviews.

Ambassador Johnson’s remarks at the June 29 closing ceremony are as follows:

Thank you for inviting me to join you at this closing ceremony. Over the past two weeks, it has been wonderful to observe your classes, talk with you in the evening, and see your passion for learning.

Today, we celebrate the accomplishments you have achieved together, but this is by no means an end. I hope the friendships and memories you’ve made at this camp last a lifetime. And, most of all, I hope the camp succeeded inspiring and encouraging you as you look to your future.

I stand before you today as an ambassador – a representative of the United States of America and a symbol of the deep friendship between America and Namibia. But I was also once a high school student. Like many of you, I came from a rural town and attended a small school. In African terms, my small town was a village.

My journey began for many of the same reasons that brought you here for WiSci. I was curious about the larger world. That curiosity led to questions, then searching for answers through reading, learning, and new experiences. The more knowledge I acquired, the more I wanted to read more, learn more, and experience more. It became a pattern of constant learning throughout my life.

I hope your participation in WiSci has further ignited in you that same love of knowledge and learning, and started a similar pattern in your life.

This camp was just a beginning. Tomorrow, you will travel back to your homes and step back into your daily lives. But what about the day after tomorrow? And what about the week after that?

As you return home, I encourage you to keep the spirit of WiSci going. Be an ambassador for all that WiSci stands for: intellectual curiosity, cross-cultural understanding, and support for young women interested in STEAM fields.

By talking to others about your experiences, by pursuing new knowledge both in and out of school, and by offering support to those who would do the same, you become that ambassador.

The past two weeks exposed you to new concepts and broadened your horizons. Your heads are swirling with new thoughts and possibilities. Don’t quiet those voices. Don’t limit those questions. Pursue them. Explore them. Then keep going to see where it takes you.

In America, one of our deeply held beliefs is that anything is possible with hard work and determination. Yes, there will be obstacles to overcome, but the challenge is to stay determined, and resilient, and keep going.

Many of the presenters you met this week are role models because of the hard work and determination they represent. I’m not going to tell you that someday you can be like them, because you already are like them!

You already have demonstrated your interest in STEAM fields, and you have just completed an amazing experience. When you go back home, other girls will look to you. Be that inspiration for them. Share your memories and stories. And encourage them to explore new ideas.

In closing, I encourage you to stay connected and draw strength from the relationships you’ve made here. Braving new territory and pursuing your passions in the face of obstacles can be tough, and at times, lonely. So stay in touch and support each other, work hard, and be resilient and determined in pursuing your goals. An incredible future awaits you.

Finally, a huge thank you to NUST and to all of our partners for making WiSci Namibia such a great success.