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Defying stereotypes

Winner, a young woman from Togo, has fought against the odds to follow her dreams of becoming an aeronautical engineer

UNESCO reports fewer than 30 per cent of the world’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) researchers are women and the recent G7 summit resolved to address the global set-back in girls’ education.

With the support of the Compassion centre she is enrolled in, Winner is staying true to her name and God-given potential. She is pursuing her dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer, even as women continue to be underrepresented in STEM higher education courses and occupations.

After completing her high school studies in mechanical engineering, Winner, 20, is writing her thesis for her university degree, with just one year until she graduates from the Compassion programme. She is even designing a motorcycle powered by solar energy for people with disabilities. But the path to realising her dream was not easy.

A difficult journey

Winner remembers how she and her brother were often expelled from school for non-school fee payment, returning home together to find that there was not enough food. Her father, Kablye, had lost his job as an electrician and her mother, Claire, could hardly cover the family’s needs with her salary as a nurse. A neighbour, seeing the family’s difficulties, told Winner’s parents about the newly established Compassion project. The project welcomed Winner at the age of eight, paid her school fees and bought her essential school items.

Winner always loved engines and was fascinated by the way they work. She wanted to design engines that could make planes fly better, faster and safer. The team at the Compassion centre came alongside Winner, supported her school needs, provided food to the family when needed and coached her on how to pursue a promising career in aeronautical engineering.

After completing middle school, she had to specialise in a course for high school. Unsure of the path that would lead her there, Winner asked her Compassion project staff for help. With their guidance, she began studying mechanical engineering as a first step towards her dream.

Winner (left) with a classmate outside
a lab carrying tools

She didn’t mind getting her hands dirty or mixing with the boys in her class. Unfortunately, sometimes the boys, and even teachers, made life difficult for Winner.

Winner explains: “I didn’t have any idea of what was awaiting me. On the first day of class, I was astonished they were all males, aside from myself and one other girl who became my friend. They would refuse to share their knowledge with me, or they would try to convince me of wrong information. Some teachers even told me during the first days in class that I should find another course to follow. They said I could never make it, that mechanical engineering was not for women.”

Plans for the future

It’s incredibly rare for a young woman to be interested in engineering in a community where only one in two women can read or write.

Winner had a lot to prove and studied hard. By the end of her first quarter exams, she ranked 12 in a class of 45 men. By the second quarter, she was second in her class. She pushed herself and, by the third quarter, she was ranked first in her class. At the national exam to enter university, she attained the second highest mark for students in mechanical engineering nationally.

Her Compassion project provided a laptop, books and funds for the daily transport to the university.

With an eye on the future, Winner intends to establish a company to serve people and help them reduce their electricity bills with solar energy, while also looking to be admitted to an international university where she can study aeronautical engineering.

Winner concludes: “I want to thank the local church for partnering with Compassion to support us. My gratitude overflows for all the staff and volunteers at the project. I also thank my sponsor, who has encouraged me. It feels good to know that someone somewhere loves you, cares for you, prays for you and invests financially in you. I never abandoned my studies because I knew I was precious to my sponsor and he was investing in me.”

To find out more about how to support Compassion’s local church partners empower children to get the education they need to escape poverty and use their God-given talents to realise their ambitions, go to compassionuk.org or follow them on social media @CompassionUK.

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