“It’s not about intelligence, it’s about believing you can,” says Zainab Azim, a Grade 12 student at Branksome Hall. Zainab has become a fierce advocate for the next generation of young women to pursue their passions and get involved in STEM. In reflecting on the lower participation rates of women and girls in the field, she notes, “It’s not because women aren’t smart enough, it’s the cultural norms we have created…”
This past September, she was invited to be a speaker and panelist at the 83rd edition of Campionaria Generale Internazionale in Bari, Italy—an international event bringing together great minds from around the world to tackle the challenges of today. At the event, she spoke about her own passion for STEM and space travel, as well as the NGO she has created called Global Initiative & Vision for Education (or G.I.V.E.). Zainab envisions G.I.V.E. as a means to provide education to those who may not have access to it by fostering the naturally creative, innovative and curious minds of children. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was clearly inspired by Zainab’s work with G.I.V.E. and her other advocacy initiatives—so much so that he requested a personal meeting with Zainab to further discuss her initiatives.
While speaking at the Campionaria Generale Internazionale, she emphasized how “education is an essential component in providing girls around the world with opportunities in [STEM], but the system is in need of significant change to meet the needs of the future of STEM.”
Zainab’s interest in STEM began when she was a young child. “It started by reading and seeing pictures of space or by taking a minute to look up at the sky,” she says. She now runs the Astronomy Club at Branksome Hall, where she shares the wonders of astronomy with her peers.
In addition to getting her peers interested in STEM, her passion and advocacy efforts have afforded her some additional international speaking opportunities. She recently spoke at the UN World Space Forum in Vienna on the topic of “Youth, Education, & Inspiring the Scientists of Tomorrow,” and participated in the International Aeronautical Congress in Washington, D.C.
What compels Zainab to continue advocating for women and girls in STEM? “There have been young girls and women from 6 to 50 years old who have walked up after my presentations and told me … how advocating for this message and being an example of diversity in STEM has given them ... confidence to go into this field or continue their work. [They] feel like ‘I can do this too’.”
To read more about Zainab’s accomplishments, click here.