Girls' satellites soar to the stars
Kazakhstan’s nanosatellite initiative propels girls to the forefront of science and technology.
Cutting-edge nanosatellites, designed and built by dynamic young women and girls from across Kazakhstan, lifted-off to explore the cosmos today.
The satellites will take high-resolution images of earth and the stars. Sensors will gather data on radiation, pressure, gravity, light and gas composition. Reams of data will be beamed back to earth for analysis.
“I’m a dreamer. If I want to achieve a goal, I’ll do my best to make it,” said Amina Sadu, 17, a participant in the groundbreaking ‘UniSat’ learning initiative which led to the launch.
20 girls and women aged 14 - 35 were taught to design, engineer, programme, build and launch small satellites by leading aerospace experts through a landmark partnership between UNICEF and the Science and Technology Park of the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University.
“Women and girls can drive the frontier jobs, discoveries and technologies of tomorrow. The UniSat initiative propels dynamic young women and girls to the forefront of the future of work and crucial economic sectors.”
Young people aged 10-24 make up almost one fifth of Kazakhstan's population, yet education has not kept pace with the knowledge and skills needed for today's and tomorrow's economy, including the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors.
UNICEF is working with the government and partners to mainstream STEM education in Kazakhstan, particularly for girls and young women.
“Too many people still think that girls should not, or even cannot, build careers in frontier tech’,” says Raushan Ibrasheva, Innovation Officer for UNICEF in Kazakhstan.
“The UniSat project helps break down the barriers many girls face, change damaging attitudes and inspire interest in aerospace careers among girls and young people across the country.”
The project also teaches transferable skills such as teamwork, communication and project management.
“UniSat offers girls the knowledge, skills and know-how to succeed in frontier technologies, but also in any careers they choose. It’s all about helping girls and young women reach their full potential."
Looking forward, UNICEF plans to scale up the project through innovative crowdfunding and sponsorship, as well enhancing the satellites themselves.
For Amina Sadu, the programme helped her gain confidence and new ideas for her future. She now dreams of working in theoretical physics and creating a school for children from poorer homes so they too can learn.
“If you're afraid to do something, you have to gather up all your will and take that important first step. Unisat opened up opportunities that I never even dreamed of because I'm no longer afraid of rejection.”