Malta has been designated as the first World Capital for Women and Girls in Science for the inaugural year 2023 – 2024 by the Royal Academy for Science International Trust (RASIT). The Capital of Women and Girls in Science is a global initiative that is offered under the patronage of RASIT to advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion in all areas of science, and to place these issues at the heart of the world's attention for a yearlong celebration.
Malta already has a history of engagement in the field of Women and Girls in Science. In 2015, together with RASIT, Malta was part of the initiating players of the process, which led to the 11th of February being designated as the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This international day acknowledges the contribution girls and women make to science and highlights the importance of gender equality. Malta continues to actively participate in activities that mark this International Day, and which bring forward work in the field.
As the World Capital, Malta is required to carry out a schedule of scientific, social, cultural, and economic events that will appeal to a large worldwide audience. This designation will improve Malta's capacity to forge connections between a variety of fields, including education, scientific research, the environment, socioeconomic development, culture, and tourism, in a manner that is consistent with Malta's own strategies and priorities.
In this regard, Christopher Cutajar, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade (MFET), Matthew Vella, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation (MEYR), and Prof. Alfred J. Vella, Rector of the University of Malta, have signed a Declaration of Principles to cooperate on matters related to women and girls in science, and organise a number of events. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed by Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade Ian Borg on behalf of the Government of Malta with RASIT during the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Week.
The first event organised was the Girls 4 STEM Summer camp between 28th August and 1st September 2023, which sought to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) engagement, among female students aged 11-12 years. This event, organised by MEYR together with the University of Malta, aimed to eliminate gender disparity in STEM education and is aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 4, that seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education. During the summer camp, the girls worked collaboratively in small groups under the guidance of mentors on several varied and hands-on STEM activities. On one of the days, the participants had a special event at ESPLORA Interactive Science Centre, Kalkara.
An AI Summer Camp on 'Exploring Intelligence – A Bootcamp on Us and Tech' for students aged 11-13 years was also organised by the Faculty of ICT at the University of Malta in collaboration with the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA). Around 60 children were given the opportunity to increase their knowledge of artificial intelligence and reflect more deeply on technology while receiving training to build complex mobile apps.
Among other initiatives already in the pipeline, the University of Malta together with MFET worked on the production of short videos on 'breaking gender stereotypes' in STEM that are being shown during the Science in the City, a national science and arts festival held between 29th and 30th September 2023 in Valletta. Everyone is encouraged to participate in Science in the City and to watch out for upcoming events that will be organised to mark the designation of Malta as Capital of Women and Girls in Science. For further details, one can visit https://www.scienceinthecity.org.mt/portfolio/zone-8-art-community-live-science/.