Social inclusion, STEM Education

"STEMpowering" Women in Prison


Who is behind this?

Pandora Sifnioti

SciCo - Science Communication



Idea pitch

Victor Hugo once said “He who opens a school door, closes a prison”. The main aim of this project is to offer women enclosed in the prison of Eleona, Greece access to a STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Mathemetics) educational program. Through hands-on, fun workshops, the women will acquire knowledge and skills, which will build their scientific and technological literacy, empower them to use a problem-solving approach and facilitate their re-integration in society and the job market.

Where will your project idea take place?

Eleonas Thivon, Greece

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

People in penal institutions have limited access to educational opportunities and resources, while at the same time their confinement maximises their need for stimuli and activities. The female prison in Eleona Thivon hosts the majority of female prisoners in Greece, however is positioned in a geographical location with limited access to transportation, further driving the need for social inclusion.
Despite access to a junior and second chance school within the institution and a few cultural activities, there is a lack in skill development, such as problem solving, key to STEAM education philosophy. In addition, when a prison sentence ends, the stigma that accompanies it doesn’t, and places barriers for the person released to find a job, be integrated to society and move on in life.

Who are you doing it for?

Our target is to run a program of 3 cycles with women incarcerated in the penal institution of Eleonas. Each cycle will consist of a group of 20 students and will run for 8 weeks. Priority will be given to women who will complete their sentence within 6 months of the completion of the program, however this will not act as an obstacle for other women who are interested.
The direct beneficiaries of the program are the 3 x 20=60 women-participants in the STEM workshops, however the solutions they design and implement in the institution can prove to be of benefit for the whole community (408 women).
Often solutions designed in these workshops have a wide application and can be of benefit for the broader community, but this will depend on the issue defined and tackled by the women.

How do you plan to get there?

The project is based on 3 consecutive cycles of 8 2-hour workshops for 20 different women each time. In each cycle, students, selected with the help of internal social workers, will follow a series of 8 (minimum) STEAM educational workshops, run by experienced educators.
The women will obtain knowledge and skills on topics of science and technology, will work in groups and learn to solve problems through the engineering design cycle.
One of the main goals is to teach students how to apply their skills/scientific thinking/creativity to resolve a real problem.
They will therefore identify an issue that needs solving in their institution and will work on designing and implementing a tangible solution (eg. waste management, composting or upcycling) under our guidance.

What are the expected results?

The primary result we expect is a group of 60+ women who will have acquired a new experience and a rich set of skills, all of which will be of value within their institution but also for their social inclusion once their sentence is completed. Apart from the new knowledge and skills, students who follow such problem-solving STEAM programmes, often feel empowered and gain confidence to deal more successfully and positively with their daily routine.
Secondly, we expect each group to identify real issues within their institution and implement tangible solutions which will benefit the whole community, potentially creating a constructive communication bridge with the authorities but also setting an example for within, above and beyond the institution, to the broader community.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

This project targets women, who are deprived from the main human right, freedom.
The development of STEAM workshops will not only be an oasis in the civic and educational desert the women are confined to, but will help them identify issues within their environment that can be solved through science and technology.
This approach empowers participants, who will partially regain basic democratic rights, such as decision making, voicing opinions, contributing to better living conditions.
Any solution designed and implemented by the participants can be beneficial for all the institution community and could potentially serve as an example for the local or broader community, above and beyond the institution, creating an active citizenship approach and bridging the gap between social groups.

Why is this idea important to you?

The team at SciCo strongly believes in human rights, solidarity and the power of STEAM education. This idea brings together all three elements in a place and space with immense needs and lack of resources.
Having run numerous STEAM educational workshops across all kinds of groups (adults, youth, people with learning disabilities, high or low school achievers, refugees, non-Greek speakers, etc) we have seen the power of science engagement, team work and problem solving.
We therefore believe that this project not only provides prisoners with a fun, educational, creative opportunity but can result in real, tangible projects/solutions to issues within the institution. We hope for this to be only the beginning of a broader mission within a target group deprived from a lot more than freedom.

€ 49,-

Total budget

€ 45,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

- Part time personnel fees/project management: 12.000
- Educators’ fees: 10.000 (150 hours run by 3 or 4 educators)
- Travel costs: 4. 000
- STEM workshop equipment and materials: 8.600
- Catering for 3x8=24 workshops: 2.400
- Communication and Dissemination: 6.000
- Impact Assessment: 2.000




Idea created on May 26, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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