On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I would like to extend warm greetings to women all over the
world for the tremendous contributions they have made and continue to make to society at large. The theme
chosen for this year’s celebration is: Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 World.
This theme for me is especially significant as I was only recently inaugurated as the first female President of
the Federation of African Engineering Organisations (FAEO) with the task of leading the organisation as it
strives to drive the socio-economic development of Africa through engineering. Just a few days ago on March
4, 2021, I also issued a statement to commemorate World Engineering Day, a day instituted by UNESCO to
celebrate the contribution of engineering to development, which often goes unappreciated.
When it comes to female engineering practitioners, they find themselves three times disadvantaged. In
addition to doing a job that is not fully appreciated, they face the same difficulties and impediments that
other females face as well as further difficulties associated with being in a largely male dominated profession.
And yet, engineering is so critical to Africa’s development that we need to ensure the participation of much
larger numbers in the profession and these must include equal numbers of females. Water, electricity,
communication, agriculture, health and practically all fields, benefit from engineering inputs and in order to
obtain the best solutions, the engineering workforce that provides the solutions must be reflective of the
society they serve.
The barriers to females entering the profession as well as those that prevent them from being retained need
to be removed and this will require a concerted effort by all sections of society. Parents, family members,
teachers, educational institutions, workplaces and governments all have a role to play. We must work to
reform our educational systems to serve our goals. Mathematics and science teaching in particular, must be
made more relevant. Too many females say they were put off by the way those subjects were taught. We
must also work to remove the barriers in tertiary institutions and in workplaces so that as we try to build up
the numbers, those that have braved all the odds and entered the field are given the space to develop,
mature and become leaders in their fields whilst staying true to their nature. Too often, females in male
dominated fields find themselves pressured and stressed in ways that ultimately affect the contributions they
make. Their important roles in society as women and especially their reproductive roles should not be
overlooked. At FAEO, we shall work to develop solutions to help remove all barriers.
The world is being thrust into a technology enabled future in which those that get ahead will be the ones
that make the best use of the tools available. The question is, will Africa enter that future with all the talents
at its disposal, primed and ready to take advantage of the new paradigms. My view is that Africa cannot
afford to be left behind. We must recognise that we are at a critical point in our history and take deliberate
action to achieve our goals.
I salute once again all female engineers in Africa for their contributions to society and urge them to continue
with the good work they are doing. I also ask them to encourage those in the early stages of their careers
and to showcase their work to young females. Together we can build that critical mass of females in
engineering that is required for establishing the “Africa We Want“.
Ing. (Mrs) Carlien Bou-Chedid
President, Federation of African Engineering Organisations