UNDP’s Growth Accelerator supports startup targeting STEM education for girls

April 3, 2023

Isata Jalloh explains her business model to the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh at the IWD 2023 event in Freetown

UNDP/Hawa Barrie

For Isata Jalloh, the best time to ‘spark’ an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for females is when they are young and eager to try their hands at whatever opportunities are given to them.  Today, her all children's STEM Garage targets particularly girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in Sierra Leone.

The UNDP Growth Accelerator Programme is helping Isata Jalloh, a STEM advocate, and Chief Executive Officer of STEM Garage in realizing her ambition. The Growth Accelerator is working with Sierra Leonean businesses to grow and scale up. The program provides early-stage innovative and impactful entrepreneurs with investments, technical help, and mentorship over a 12-month period. The programme focuses on women and youth-led businesses. Businesses like Isata’s have gotten assistance from the Accelerator program to help them grow. 

The Growth Accelerator will be extremely beneficial to me in terms of increasing our equipment supply, access to regular electricity, and internet service; formalizing the company; and offering scholarships to ten young girls in our community to learn more STEM,” says Isata.

Isata successfully guided her team to pilot STEM learning in Bo City in June 2022. This pilot demonstrated children's ability to acquire digital skills more quickly when the learning approach is fun and hands-on.


The three-month pilot, which targeted 60 children aged six to twelve, benefited a total of 120 children (of which 45 were girls). STEM Garage is currently funded primarily through subscriptions by parents whose children are continuing STEM learning after the pilot period. The grant from the Growth Accelerator is providing investment in Isata’s social enterprise.

“Soon we will be able to train more children and that means our girls will get the opportunity to try their hands at STEM. I am extremely excited about the prospects of introducing children, especially girls to STEM. My goal is to help the future generation develop a meaningful career path through STEM learning. We are building the future of STEM in Serra Leone,’ she says.

STEM Garage received a grant of $10,000 investment from the UNDPs Growth Accelerator programme in 2022. It's in its early stage, but for Isata, the relationship with the Growth Accelerator has already opened more doors for STEM Garage. She has secured a partnership with the National Commission for Children to collaboratively work on setting up STEM Clubs in Secondary schools and on the selection of kids for the annual First Global Robotics Global Challenge. 

Children in a STEM Learning session

STEM Garage

The Growth Accelerator 

In 2022, UNDP Sierra Leone launched the Growth Accelerator to support the economic and social growth of 55 innovative, viable, and ambitious Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with a particular emphasis on women and youth-led enterprises. The first cohort of 34 MSMEs have received investments through grants, technical assistance, and mentorship. 

According to the Youth Technical Specialist at UNDP Sierra Leone, Richard Musinguzi, the Growth Accelerator Programme is timely and unique in tackling the issue of inadequate access to affordable funding for Sierra Leone's MSMEs. 

He said, “MSMEs particularly those led by young women have great potential to contribute to solving problems that impact on people’s lives. The initiative is supporting the MSMEs by providing tailored coaching, mentorship, and connections to business development services to strengthen their skills, capacity and planning for innovation, growth, and investment.”