Skip to Main Navigation
FEATURE STORYSeptember 18, 2023

Exposure to STEM careers for Eswatini youth can contribute to closing the gender gap

Photo: Communication Department, MNRE.

Lungelo Dlamini, a student from Zandondo High School in Manzini Region who was attached to the Royal Eswatini Sugar Cooperation. She shared her experiences, delivering an inspirational keynote for student interns. Photo: Communication Department, MNRE.


  • The Kingdom of Eswatini has committed to closing the gender gap in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
  • The Global Gender Gap Report 2023 shows that Eswatini ranked 46th out of 146 for gender equality.
  • High schoolers received exposure to STEM careers through a World Bank-supported job shadowing program, at government institutions and private companies, to encourage girls in particular to study STEM at university.

Due to social and gender norms in Eswatini, young women are generally not encouraged to join the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. This contributes to the low level of female participation in these fields at the university level, and eventually in the world of work in the energy sector. Only about 25% of workers in the energy sector, particularly the technical fields, are women, according to data analysis of Eswatini’s workforce. The Global Gender Gap Index 2023, showing the state of gender equality in a country, notes Eswatini ranks 46th out of 146 countries, worse than neighboring countries such as South Africa (20th) and Mozambique (24th). The World Bank’s Network Reinforcement and Access Project (NRAP) is helping to change this.

NRAP’s objective is to improve the reliability of electricity supply and increase access to electricity services in targeted areas of Eswatini. Gender-focused strategic interventions were outlined during the preparation of this project. To attract, recruit, promote, and retain the female workforce in the energy sector, two focus areas were embedded in NRAP. The first is a job shadowing program focusing on high school students to expose them to daily operations and challenges of the energy sector and inspire them to pursue STEM in university. The second is a revision of the curriculum for primary education to specifically integrate gender and energy content. These interventions were designed to tackle stereotypical norms that hinder girls’ and women’s participation in STEM.

Job shadowing

The first cohort of the job shadowing program joined energy sector institutes in May 2023 and consisted of 40 high school students (30 female and 10 male) from 27 high schools in four regions. Their placement was facilitated by the Junior Achievement Institute. The student interns were attached to ten state-owned and privately-owned companies for 10 days. Upon completion of the job shadowing program, the interns received a certificate from Acting Minister of Natural Resources and Energy (MNRE), Jabulani Mabuza.

It takes courage and determination to shape your future towards your desired goals. As you pursue your academic career, bear in mind that the world is looking for solutions in various fields and this is an opportunity to be of service to the country and the corporate world.
Jabulani Mabuza
Acting Minister of Natural Resources and Energy (MNRE)

Photo: JA Eswatini
Minister of MNRE Jabulani Mabuza (MP) (in blue suit), flanked by the Acting Minister for Education and Training on his right and Ms. Phetsile Masilela and Executive Director for JA Eswatini on his left, Eswatini Electricity Company Managing Director Mr. Enerst Mkhonta and senior officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy and the Ministry of Education & Training, together with the student interns at the ceremony. Photo: JA Eswatini

Eswatini’s MNRE is leading implementation of gender equality actions in collaboration with the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (DPMO), Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC), and the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET).

 “We are working closely with the Ministry of Education and Training, and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office to challenge stereotypical misconceptions and questioning of women’s ability to join STEM fields,” said Dorcas Dlamini, Permanent Secretary of MNRE.

Photo: Communication Department, MNRE
Student interns attached to the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) with the Managing Director Mr. Enerst Mkhonta. Photo: Communication Department, MNRE

As this was their first exposure to a work environment, interns received guidance on applying office procedures, communicating professionally, and gained confidence, as well as valuable insights into the practical application of their future studies. The job shadowing program will be continued and refined based on this initial experience, and the second cohort of student interns are expected to join the energy sector by the end of the next academic year. The initiative is envisaged as an example of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with a demonstrative effect, which could be applied to different sectors and countries.

Photo: Communication Department, MNRE.
Seluleko Khumalo, student from Somnjalose High School and job shadowing youth. Photo: Communication Department, MNRE.

“The job shadowing program helped me and impacted me very positively to decide on my career path. I had a misconception that engineering fields are tough and only for men. But I have clearly understood that I have the full ability to join engineering fields. My two weeks at Total Energies went by very fast.”  
- Seluleko Khumalo, student from Somnjalose High School, in the above picture.

 “I was attached at Engen Eswatini (oil and petroleum production company). Since day one, I noticed that the only woman in Engen Eswatini was the receptionist. All the engineers were male and that made me enthusiastic to become one of their team and narrow the gender gap. It is unfortunate that there is no women representation. I strongly believe that women should be represented equitably in the energy sector.” 
- Mayenziwe Masinga, student from Prolearning High under Manzini region.

Curriculum Revision in Primary Education

In parallel to the job shadowing, and to ensure the education system is inclusive and encourages girls to join STEM, the primary education curriculum has been revised. Gender and energy sector content is being included and the revised curriculum is being piloted until September 2023. The objectives are to use the education system to unleash the potential of girls to join STEM fields and ensure a gender-responsive education system is maintained in Eswatini primary schools. This in return increases the percentage of girls inspired to pursue STEM fields in university, and potentially join the job market.

This initial intervention under the NRAP project shows that with a modest budget and partnership with state and private sector actors, a meaningful impact can be made toward closing the gender gap.

The companies participating in the job shadowing were:  Royal Eswatini Sugar Corporation (RESC), Ubombo Sugar Limited, Total Energies - Eswatini, Eswatini National Petroleum Company ENPC), Engen - Eswatini, Eswatini Water Services Corporation (SWSC), Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA), Energy Department and Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC).


We thank Joseph Kapika, Fowzia Hassan, and Meskerem Mulatu Legesse for this article.


    loader image


    loader image