Empowering girls in Peru through science

30 November 2017

The Mini Academy of Science and Technology (MaCTec) was awarded the 2017 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education for its “Mobile MaCTec Bus Labs/Mini Academy of Science and Technology” project. MaCTec is a non-profit organization empowering young Peruvian girls in rural areas through quality science education and helping to reduce the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. It was founded in 2012 by four Peruvians (one scientist and three young students) and reaches girls from 8 to 11 years old.

Who benefits from the Mini Academy of Science and Technology (MaCTec), and why?

We work with girls to empower them, we think this is the best way to nurture the nation. Girls are the best way. Girls + science = exponential results in our world, in our community and country. It’s a formula to change the world.

One of the girls we work with, Valeria, is from Huancayo a rural area approximately 300 kilometers from Lima. Every Friday night with her mother, she takes the bus to Lima, which takes eight to ten hours. On Saturdays, she is the first girl at the workshop. She follows the science workshop with scientists and then returns to her community, where she replicates the workshop. That’s why when you educate a girl, you educate a community.

We think, at MaCTec, that to educate a girl through science is so powerful. Not only for the girl, not only for the family, not only for community. It is also for the country to develop. Not to become rich in money, but rich in progress.     

How does it work?

In the first two years, we worked with girls aged 8-16. But then we decided to focus our work with girls aged 8-11 because we discovered that at that age, they have a window in their minds to develop a sense for science, the capacity to open their eyes, and to nurture so much creativity and imagination, which is so important in science. This is when girls discover the world in a different way. They have a lot of questions. They want to explore the world.  

We have a model called DPL: Diversity Peer Learning. Girls from different backgrounds, from different parts of the city come to MaCTec and work in groups. They sit in groups working with well-recognized scientists from Peru and from the world. The girls challenge the scientists and most of the time the scientists do not know how to respond, or how to answer their questions. This is so powerful. If scientists do not know the answer, that means maybe there is no answer and we can generate knowledge.

What motivates your work?

The moment when girls discover that they can change the world, that moment is the best moment for MaCTec. Because girls have the power, the real power to change the world. They have imagination, creativity, and all characteristics of a scientist. This is my motivation – the girls. Working for empowering, giving all of the tools to change the world through science.

MaCTec has been awarded the 2017 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education. How will this Prize support your organization and what is the next step?

This Prize is so important. It means that this dream, the MaCTec project, will continue. It means we will go into the rural areas for the girls who cannot come to the workshops. The next step is to build a MaCTec mobile bus and to explore the rainforest, all of the biodiversity, with the girls and well-recognized scientists. Girls can explore the world and have an impact on scientific production in Peru, which is so rich in biodiversity but so poor in scientific production. All countries need science to grow.

I invite everyone to think like a child. With a lot of creativity, imagination and curiosity. I think these ingredients are so powerful to change the world.