- The UN in The Gambia is supporting initiatives to bridge the gender disparity gap in STEM through raising awareness and capacity-building support to women-owned businesses.
Fatou Juka Darbor is an fearless young woman from The Gambia, always wanting to learn and understand what makes things work. In pursuit of her fiery passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), she ended up igniting a 3D printing revolution in the country by founding her country’s first and only 3D printing company, Make 3D Company Limited, in 2019. She is breaking barriers and inspiring future generations in the country.
Juka, who was fascinated by machines from a young age, was determined to discover their inner workings, dismantling radios and calculators with unbridled curiosity.
3D Printing Revolution in The Gambia
The young entrepreneur’s desire to pursue a career in STEM propelled her to overcome the obstacles that women frequently face in this male-dominated field, ignoring conventional norms. Her unwavering dedication earned her the distinction of being the only female in her mechanical engineering class at the Gambia Technical Training Institute.
“In The Gambia, women were often discouraged from pursuing careers in STEM, as it was seen as a male-dominated field,” she says with a laugh.
Reflecting on this journey, she said, “My experiences of the stigma attached to being ‘the woman’ in a male-dominated space made me realize how lucky I was to have parents that supported my decision to pursue sciences.”
Juka’s perseverance paid off with a prestigious position as a mechanical engineer at the Gambia National Petroleum Company.
Her ambitions, on the other hand, continued to soar. In 2019, she co-founded Make 3D Company Limited with Silvestr Tká, a tech enthusiast, to bring the revolutionary world of 3D printing to The Gambia.
Her company has been a change agent, bettering the lives of Gambians. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, her Make 3D Company Limited collaborated with the Gambian Medical Research Council Unit (MRCG) to develop protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers.
Partnering with UN
This novel approach resulted in collaborations with the United Nations through the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), resulting in the production of over 8,000 face shields for the country’s primary referral hospital.
Furthermore, Juka’s company has created prototypes of prosthetic limbs, providing affordable solutions and newfound hope to those who have lost limbs due to accidents, diseases, or conflicts.
Juka’s unwavering dedication and determination have earned her numerous accolades, cementing her position as a pioneer in her field.
Her message to young girls is unequivocal: “I hope I inspire young girls in Dumbutou and Basse to believe that they can be anything they dream of being. No career is specifically meant for men only. You can be whatever you want to be if you believe in yourself, even if no one does.”
The United Nations in The Gambia is supporting initiatives to close the gender gap in STEM.
The UN raises awareness about the barriers that women and girls face in STEM through events such as ‘UN Women and Girls in Science Day,’ and provides capacity-building support to women-owned businesses.
Juka’s inspiring story of bravery and resilience in the face of adversity serves as a powerful reminder that, given the right opportunities and support, women can excel in STEM fields and leave a lasting, positive impact on their communities.
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