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The guest was Valerie Agberagba, Chair of the Committee on Women in Engineering (2016-2019).

    Mel De Gioia 0:25

Welcome to Engineering Leaders Mini Series in the lead up to the very first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development 2020. This mini series is being supported by the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. My name is Melanie and my co host and our podcast’s resident engineer is Dominic. Today’s episode is on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 10, Reducing Inequalities.

    Dom 0:52

Our guest today is from Nigeria and leads the presidential project for providing solar home systems to rural communities. She has served on a number of boards including being vice president of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations and chair of the Women In Engineering Committee from 2016 to just last year. She currently heads the Renewable Energy Desk in the Niger Delta Power holding company, Nigeria. Our guest today is Valerie Agberagba.

    Mel De Gioia 1:21

Valerie did not plan on being an engineer. In fact, she was studying towards being a medical doctor as she passionately wanted to be in a profession where she could help improve people’s lives. Then some people visited her school to talk about engineering. Valerie realised she could actually make the world a better place by being an engineer.

    Guest 1:42

I think I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.


Being an engineer, you’re actually able to make the world a better place for people.


So it is really what took me to engineering.


All right, excellent.

    Mel De Gioia 1:53

Our podcast series is all about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal and today, we’re looking at the goal specifically number 10 reducing inequality. Can you tell us a little bit about that particular SDG?

    Guest 2:06

Yeah, goal number 10 reducing inequality has about 10 targets. When we looked at it all its driving ideas which is reducing financial inequality is reducing infrastructure inequalities, assets to growth, assets to income, and assets to actually doing business even outside your own country. So either way of trying to bring all the nations of the world together to grow along the same parts with no nation being left behind.

    Dom 2:39

Was there a particular inspiration? Was there a key moment that sort of brought you to looking at SDG 10?

    Guest 2:45

SDG 10 has 10 targets. And going through all the targets, we saw that 10.2 was more of a target that aligns with our own discipline, which is engineering. And this talks about empowering and promoting this social, economic and political inclusion of all irrespective of your age, your sex, whether you’re disabled, your disability, your ethnicity, your origin, your religion. It doesn’t matter your economic status, we just need to empower and promote this and looking at these results as engineers, we know that the socio-economic development of any nation is dependent on the policies and infrastructure development. And infrastructure development is a factor of engineering involvement in that nation.


Engineering plays a very key role in the infrastructure development, increasing the socio-economic growth of any nation.


Why because like I said, engineering is all about improving the quality and the standard of living of its citizens. So you realise that the large disparity in access to infrastructure among nations is a big source of the inequality we are talking about. You have over 1.1 billion people who do not have access to electricity. You have over 2.4 billion people without adequate water and sanitation. And if you look at all these inequality characterised by discrimination and disparity in creating opportunities to people to watch programmes, the governments have put in place or even creating a potential to to assess the outcomes of programmes and activities the government have put in place. So, we can simply see that


when you have a low involvement of engineering in any nation, it leads to low infrastructure development in that nation.


And once you talk on low infrastructure development, you are talking of a low socio-economic development also of that nation. And if you look at all these, the leads to just one goal, high level of inequality. And so I’ve been looked at all these as engineers We’ve now looked at it comparing it to the global assets civil engineering index, which shows the benchmark of engineers to the people in the nation and the


standard global practices, one engineer to 40 people in the nation.


If you can have that


if you can attain that, then you show the high level of infrastructure development


a high level of engineering involvement in that nation. While we looked at most developing countries, we took our time to study this and realise that


most developing countries have a ratio of one engineer to about 14,000 people.


So if you compare that to what the global expectation is, you realise that the inequality in this nation is very, very high when it comes to infrastructure development. And so as engineers and as women, we realised that if you look at this level of inequality, then again, the women and children are the worst hit when it comes to this. Talk of low income, talk of access to water, talk of access to electricity, the women are the worst hit. They are the ones that had to travel distances to fetch firewood to make fire and get energy. They are the ones that have to travel miles to get water for the family. And so it became a very emotional thing for us as women engineers that we needed to get into this space to reduce inequality.

    Mel De Gioia 6:23

So do you want to tell us a little bit more about those projects that you’re working on?

    Guest 6:28

Data is very vital. If you look at what I say about low engineering, low infrastructure, low socio-economic development, and then you have high level of inequality. And if we want to be able to bring the developing nations to compete with other nations, then you must have adequate data. But if you look at most of the developed countries, I use my nation Nigeria as an example. We are very poor when it comes to data. I can’t even tell you categorically that the ratio of engineers to people in Nigeria is this. But during the course of our research, our research was in three countries, Malawi, in Southern Africa, Rwanda, in Eastern Africa and Nigeria, in Western Africa. And we realised that for Malawi, because of the data they had, were able to determine that it was a ratio of one engineer to 14,000 people. From my country, Nigeria, I couldn’t determine the number of people to one engineer. And so we really knew that we had to talk our work on data. And so we started with that. And we’ve been working on it. We’ve done the first phase of this project, which was to determine what is driving women engineers away from engineering, why are they not taking engineering? Why are they not in this space to help out in development and realise the reasons for this? And the second phase, which we hope to complete this year is what is the outcome of that projects? From our research, we realised that there are no role models in engineering for the women and so we’ve seen this as one major reason why we have very low level of women in engineering. We can’t even tell you what the percentage of women is right now. And that’s one major outcome. We have come at across Africa.


We must look out for the role models,


who we use interest in the younger ones to come out and take their space in the engineering. And so that is very vital. Another point we realised during the course of this reset was


the teaching methods for science and engineering… it’s so masculine, everything is masculine.


And one of our female organisations in South Africa actually came up with this one and now they use it – just the pink hats. You’ve seen those hats, engineering hats – the white, you see the blue. Now we have the pink hats all over the place. So when you see pink, what do you think of? You think of the female and so


if I can wear a pink hat, that means I can be an engineer.


You know, so that’s just one area some women have come out with, to bring engineering to the girl child. So we are coming up with so many ideas because


if we have to reduce the level of inequality in the world, then women engineers must be very vital.


And so we’re working on that. And we also realise that


we don’t have good counselling processes in Africa.


In the developed countries, students, they have one on one counselling with your lecturers, as they go from one course to another. Once they see that you are not doing well, they want to have a one on one with you. Why are you not doing well? They know what your capabilities are, and they’re able to help you to develop in that area. But in Africa, we also don’t have that good counselling processes. So we


need to develop a good counselling framework for students in the school so that at least they will be able to know what they can achieve if they did engineering.


So you see that engineering is all around us. And so we are very passionate about bringing engineering to the female children. And so this is where we are driving this course, in order to reduce inequality. And so for the second phase is one of the things we are going to do creating role models, identifying our role models in different countries, in different engineering perspectives. In the oil and gas, in the structures or the in electricity, in the water setup. Where do we find these women engineers? What are they doing? Are they being able to make a change in their different countries? And if they could do it, you also could in your own country. Who is developing can do it and reach out to your people. So this is the first project and the second one is water and sanitation. Because again, like I said, the women are the ones that travel to the river to fetch the water. They’re the ones that go looking for the streams. They are the ones that go to fetch the firewood. And so we thought the second one again, we have to look at because we had about 2.4 billion people without adequate sanitation, and water. So those are the two projects as women engineers we’ve been looking at in the past two years. And we hope to bring this to officials shows very soon, and they move to other areas.

    Dom 11:12

But that sounds great. And are there any big things that you hope for for 2020? Any goals that you hope to achieve are part of this SDG 10?

    Guest 11:21

Very main what we need to get now is to put the role models on the global scene. We were taking role models from every country. We’re trying to do a documentary on them. Once you’ve been able to achieve we’ve been able to analyse a few, identify a few of the women in different countries in the oil and gas, in the power sector. And we’re trying to look at some of those in mining we have women are getting into the mining space. So once we identify them and we had our talks with them and they are willing, we want to be able to do a documentary that will be played out locally in the countries and then on the global scene. We’ll be able to do a documentary on Africa right now. Because we are the ones that really need help. We will be able to showcase it globally so that even people who seen them outside the African continent will be willing to come into their country to help, because that’s what the


goal number 10 is all about identifying the areas of weakness in your country and be able to bring other nations who are doing well in those areas to build you up to a particular level that your citizens can have a better life.


So this is what we intend to achieve with the documentary. Projects women as engineers and then be able to let people know that these are our weaknesses in our country, and we need the help of others to come in to help us do it. That is our target for 2020. And we hope before the end of the year, we’ll be able to shout “hooray, we’ve been able to do it!” It’s a tall one, but we are looking forward to it. And secondly, for the community, where they are helping with the open defecation system. By March, we’ll be able to declare the first community ODF that’s Open Defecation Free. And once we’re able to do that with the involvement of UNESCO and then the UN we will be able to now know what the next level will be. But right now we are under monitoring and evaluation to see that within the end of the first quarter, they could be declared open defecation free. So we’re able to do that again, that would be a good one for us. And that really encouraged us to move to the next community. And so we’re looking forward to it, we are pushing really hard. We’re not leaving any stone unturned to be able to achieve these goals.


2020 is the year of success stories.


So that’s what I’m looking forward to.

    Dom 13:42

That sounds great

    Mel De Gioia 13:43

Yeah, it seems like all the past has been data gathering and now you can finally get to the actionable stuff with the documentary… Yeah. Yeah, it sounds wonderful. What a great year to have the First World Engineering Day and having these activities done. So thank you so much for joining us.

    Dom 14:00

Thanks for speaking with us. It was great.

    Guest 14:02

Thank you so very much. I love talking with you and you’re doing a great job. Thank you for supporting the world engineering. Thank you so very much.

    Mel De Gioia

And thank you for tuning into Engineering Leaders as we prepare you for the first World Engineering Day on Sustainable Development, which is going to be held every fourth of March. We hope you’re enjoying our mini series which is brought to you with the support of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. The best way for you to show your support for our show, is to tell people, either in person or write a review. Just spread the word. Seriously, it is that easy. We look forward to you and your friends joining us next time when we bring you another episode with one of our engineering champions.

Transcribed by

Valerie Agberagba is from Nigeria and leads the Presidential project for providing Solar Home Systems to rural communities.

She has served on a number of boards, including being Vice President of the World Federation of Engineering Organization and Chair of the Women in Engineering Committee from 2016 to just last year.

Valerie currently heads the Renewable energy desk in the Niger Delta Power Holding Company, Nigeria