Member spotlight: Glasgow University's Female Engineers in Malawi

29 January 2020

The Scotland Malawi Partnership welcomes FemEng to their membership, and had the pleasure to interview Kirsty Carlyle, Founder and Project Manager of the FemEng in Malawi Project.

The Scotland Malawi Partnership welcomes FemEng from Glasgow University to their membership, and had the pleasure to interview Kirsty Carlyle, Founder and Project Manager of the FemEng in Malawi Project.

Kirsty spoke to us about the exciting upcoming partnership they have with Malawi University of Science and Technology and what their aspirations are for this new project.

What is FemEng?

FemEng – Glasgow University’s Female Engineers – is a society aimed at supporting and promoting women in engineering. We have a number of focuses including outreach work with schools, networking events with industry professionals and social activities.

The society is made up of a diverse range of engineering students from all year groups and disciplines at the University of Glasgow.

FemEng started as a sub-group within the university’s engineering society and has went from strength to strength over the last few years – now consisting of over 100 active members. We are also linked with nationwide organisations who share similar goals, such as the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and Equate Scotland.

What is the FemEng in Malawi project?

FemEng in Malawi is a new international outreach collaboration between the University of Glasgow and Malawi University of Science and Technology. The project is entirely student led with the team being made of female engineering students from both universities.

Together, we intend to develop workshops which promote STEM subjects to school children in Malawi. These workshops will be delivered over a 3-4 week period in Summer 2020 and may include activities such as bridge building, low cost medical diagnostics and computer programming demonstrations.

Whilst the overall aim of FemEng in Malawi is to encourage STEM participation in Malawi, the project will also see team members benefit from industry visits to see applications of engineering in Malawi as well as cross-cultural activities.

Where did the idea for FemEng in Malawi come from?

FemEng in Malawi is a sister project of the highly successful FemEng in Rwanda which ran for 4 weeks in each Summer from 2016-2019. FemEng in Rwanda was an opportunity for FemEng to expand the impact of our outreach work outside Glasgow and surrounding areas. The project in partnership with University of Rwanda utilised existing links between each university.

Our project in Rwanda had the same aim to encourage STEM participation from young people and reached an impressive 6500+ school children. The project was highly commended from industry sponsors and recognised in Scottish Parliament.

Throughout the lifetime of FemEng in Rwanda, the University of Glasgow students assisted the Rwandan students in setting up a FemEng style society which they named ‘Future You’. The Future You team will carry out outreach work year-round and reach schools which may not have been possible to visit during the 4-week visits due to language barriers or distance.

Tell us more about what FemEng in Malawi is aiming to achieve

The project aims to encourage young people in Malawi, particularly females, to consider careers in STEM. We hope to excite the school children about applications of engineering in Malawi through engaging workshops.

Outreach work is incredibly important to break down barriers which may prevent young people from pursuing careers in STEM. Additionally, we plan to support the students from Malawi University of Science and Technology through organising insightful industry visits – one student from the FemEng in Rwanda team secured a job from a company we visited in 2018!

To ensure the project is sustainable, we plan to offer guidance to the university students regarding outreach activities and developing networks to support women in STEM in Malawi year round.

What are your plans for this project in the coming year?

The Glasgow based team members are excited to head to Malawi in Summer 2020 for 3-4 weeks of practical engagement. In upcoming months leading up to the trip, the team will be focused on seeking sponsorship to fund the project.

Additionally, as this is the first year of the project, the team will work on developing a website, promotional material and obtaining up-to-date workshop equipment to take to Malawi.

For updates on the FemEng in Malawi project, check out their Facebook page here.