Empowering Young Women and Refugees Worldwide through STEM & Sustainability

AFS Intercultural Programs

2022/8/5 14:40



NEW YORK, Aug. 5, 2022 /PRNewswire=KYODO JBN/ --


Women and girls who seek to advance their STEM education have long faced

incredible challenges in a field traditionally dominated by men. At the same

time, recent events have highlighted the soaring population of 89.3 million

refugees, displaced and stateless people around the world(


) - almost 27% of whom are women and girls under 18. International education,

and especially virtual exchange, is rarely used to address such issues, even

though it can be a powerful way to broaden opportunities for marginalized



Photo - https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1809272/AFS_Logo.jpg


Helping Young Women Enter the World of STEM & Sustainability


AFS Intercultural Programs, a global non-profit renowned for its intercultural

exchanges has run programs funded by bp since 2011 for young people in STEM. In

2021, the two organizations launched an ambitious 5-year initiative aimed at

giving 5,000 young people scholarships, with an emphasis on diversity and

inclusion, and a particular focus on supporting young women. The AFS Global

STEM Accelerator(


) program, which launched in June 2022,  is a full-scholarship, virtual

exchange program designed to provide 180 young women worldwide with access to

education in sustainability, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math),

and positive social impact.


Giving Refugees Equal Access to Education


The refugee crisis affects more than 89.3 million people globally, including

the millions of displaced people from Syria, Venezuela, Sudan, and Myanmar.

Since February 2022, the world has seen millions of Ukrainians being forced to

flee their homes.


The immediate public response to refugee crises is often focused on meeting

urgent humanitarian needs. However, education is a basic human right(


) that is often denied to refugee youth. This is especially true of young

refugee women. It's also, according to the UNHCR(


), a critical part of any international refugee response.


With this in mind, AFS, with support from bp, increased the number of

scholarships to ensure that young refugee women were included in the AFS Global

STEM Accelerator Program(


). Recognizing the need to execute outreach thoughtfully, AFS partnered with

SPARK, an international non-governmental development organization active in 14

regions throughout the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa. For over 28

years, SPARK has created pathways for young people to rebuild their futures,

and provide opportunities for youth, particularly women and refugees, to study,

work and grow their own businesses in fragile communities.


"Global citizenship education has to be accessible to everyone. We are so

excited that we could work with bp and SPARK to make this program accessible to

young people that are often excluded from these opportunities, but in reality

need them the most," says Daniel Obst, AFS President and CEO.


Over 1,000 applicants from 71 Countries


The AFS Global STEM Accelerators(


) program received 1,083 applications from 71 countries worldwide, including

applicants from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Nigeria, and Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Applications were open to young women (ages 15-17.5) globally, with a keen

interest in becoming changemakers in their communities. AFS allocated 20% of

scholarships specifically for refugees and girls from displaced populations,

whether from war, violence, or natural disaster.


The 180 scholarships awarded to young women from 61 countries reflect the

diversity and inclusion the program seeks to achieve:


    --20% of recipients identify as refugees or from displaced communities

    --82% of recipients identify as People of Color

    --51% of recipients come from low-income households

    --10% will be the first in their families on track to graduate from

      high school


AFS and bp recognize that access to technology and internet connectivity is

inequitable globally and are prepared to support these needs.


"It is exciting to see such strong interest from these brilliant young women,"

says Kerry Dryburgh, EVP people & culture, bp. "With their passion to make a

difference and the skills they will learn, they are future changemakers,

leaders and innovators – we wish them the very best for their journey."


The words of the scholarship recipients further support the claim that virtual

exchange is a powerful tool for expanding access to educational opportunities.


"I am from a traditional Pashtun society, where in my province girls don't even

have the right to go to school. In each corner of my country, gender inequality

is vivid. All these challenges give me the strength to create my own identity

and to be different from my surroundings. Participating in this program will be

my first step toward achieving my goal to explore the world and become someone

influential in improving sustainable societies." - Harira, from Afghanistan


What's Next for These Young Women


The AFS Global STEM Accelerators(


) program culminates with scholars developing social impact capstone projects

and presentations that offer potential solutions to real-world challenges, with

an emphasis on sustainability. Participants receive the Advanced Certificate on

Global Competence for Social Impact, awarded by AFS and the University of

Pennsylvania, along with official validation on their capstone projects from

the University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy. Students'

learning and capstone development is guided by a diverse facilitation team

representing twelve qualified facilitators (all women) from nine countries.


Upon program completion, scholars will be invited to join the alumni community

offering diverse mentoring opportunities, skills development sessions, panel

discussions and further development opportunities. Scholars will also be

invited to participate in the AFS Youth Assembly(


), a global gathering of young people actively tackling the United Nations

Sustainable Development Goals.


SOURCE: AFS Intercultural Programs


CONTACT: Milena Miladinovic, m.miladinovic@afs.org