Girls of Uzbekistan: From childhood dreams to scientific developments

“As a child, I often saw white stars in the night sky. They flew like airplanes. I always wanted to find out what it was,” says Ikboloy Umarova (19) from Samarkand.

UNICEF Uzbekistan
26 January 2022
портрет Икболой

“As a child, I often saw white stars in the night sky. They flew like airplanes. I always wanted to find out what it was,” says Ikboloy Umarova (19) from Samarkand.

When her father said that they were satellites, she became interested in astronautics. In the eyes of this girl, satellites are stars flying from the Earth into the space.

Iqboloy is studying programming, Korean and Italian languages. She loves coming up with ideas and writes them down in her diary.

The international educational program UniSat for Iqboloy and other girls of Uzbekistan interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has become a platform to launch their dreams.

“Having learned that our country wants to launch a nanosatellite built by a team of girls into the stratosphere, I joined the project with pleasure. My dream is to become the head of the development department,” Iqboloy shares her plans.

In the framework of the program, girls aged 15-24 selected from all regions of Uzbekistan are given an opportunity to improve their knowledge in programming and engineering, and their project management skills. The participants will design, assemble and launch a nanosatellite into the stratosphere with support of a team of professional engineers and programmers.

Another participant of the project is Dilfuza Tajibayeva, a 3rd year student of the Tashkent branch of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute). She is a majoring in Power Industry and Electrical Engineering.

“The decision to participate was not straightforward for me,” Dilfuza admits. “I understood that participation in such a program would take a lot of time, require commitment and discipline. However, the love of science and the desire to gain new knowledge and experience took over. Moreover, I can’t wait to apply the knowledge I gained at the technical university in practice.”

Дильфуза на фоне Института Солнца в Паркенте

Dilfuza loves to make things by hand since childhood. At the age of 5, she made houses for dolls from improvised materials. Now, at 19, she hopes to be one of those who builds a nanosatellite and launches it to the stratosphere.

“This program will give me invaluable experience in both, independent and teamwork, and will help me to master in engineering and programming,” says Dilfuza. “With small but sure steps, we are moving towards the learning of the space, we are learning to apply knowledge in practice, to draw important lessons from them.”

The launch of the nanosatellite in Uzbekistan is scheduled for 12 April 2022. Girls like Ikboloy and Dilfuza will draw up a flight plan and launch the nanosatellite from an operating site in Uzbekistan under the supervision of specialists from air navigation services. A nanosatellite launched into the stratosphere will make it possible to take high-resolution images of the Earth and stars. Built-in sensors will collect data that can be useful for the future scientific research.

The UniSat program is supported by UNICEF Country Offices in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In Uzbekistan, this project is being implemented jointly with the SCO Tech4Impact and the Ministry of Innovative Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan. All partners' efforts are aimed at increasing girls' interest in STEM.

“Unfortunately, very few girls choose STEM professions due to gender stereotypes imposed by society, people around them,” Dilfuza shares her thoughts. “One of the decisive factors in participating in the UniSat program for me was the desire to prove that girls are also able to contribute and be successful in science and technology. I believe that science is beyond divisions into female and male. The most important thing is not to pay attention to any stereotypes, to improve yourself, set your goal and strive for it,” adds the girl with confidence.