Meet Mwangala Maunga: The 17-Year-Old Inventor

Driven by the passion to find lasting solutions to the prevailing waterborne diseases rocking most African countries, Mwangala, at just 12 years old, came up with an innovative idea to produce a water purifier entirely powered by solar energy. Her idea is one that supports the world’s move to more sustainable energy, which in turn plays a key role in helping both developing and developed countries in achieving many of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, according to the World Bank Group.

She built the water purifier prototype with a combination of wooden and metal sheet enclosures, black paint for insulation, heat absorbent black trays, reflective materials, sheets of glass, glue and catch troughs.

During the PlanetForward interview, Mwangala, who is now 17, said she believes her water purifier idea is divine and could not have been timelier, as its conception was closely followed by the declaration of a cholera outbreak in Zambia in 2017. Cholera is a sometimes fatal infection of the intestines, often caused by drinking contaminated water. Mwangala explains that, “The main reason I developed the water filter was because I wanted to provide clean and safe water in the simplest way possible, as opposed to a complicated water purification system.”

According to Mwangala, she nursed the idea for the solar water filter while she was in Grade 5, however, she only actualized it when she was in Grade 8.

“I remember sitting in a science class and drawing the draft in my exercise book,” she said. “When I showed my friend and asked if she thinks it could actually work, her answer was negative as she said it won’t go anywhere.” A few years down the line, it is evident that Mwangala pressed on with her idea.

Using her voice

In an effort to widen the scope of her impact in the lives of other young girls across Zambia, she founded the Girl Power Platform, an organization that exists to create STEM opportunities for girls especially in rural communities in Zambia.

“I live in the capital city which exposes me to more of these opportunities. What about girls that live in remote areas? I love to see girls thrive because I know for a fact that they have limitless potential,” Mwangala said.

Through her organization and her innovation, Mwangala has been able to address and inspire over 600 girls in her school through STEM and climate advocacy activities.

Considering the fact that Mwangala spends most of her time in school, she reveals she has not had ample time for community outreach.

However, she plans to take this on as soon as she completes secondary school this year. She also plans to engage in mass production of the water filters by early 2023 as the water purifier prototype has gone through the necessary scientific tests and is now at the patenting stage.

Her efforts have been crowned with several recognitions, including the Best Inventor in the Science and Tech category at the DStv Africa MultiChoice – Cartoon Network Powerpuff Girls’ Awards; the 2019 youngest recipient of the Brenda Mutemba Award as an “Emerging Young African Leader” at the PUSH WOMEN AWARDS; the youngest and only Zambian speaker at the 2020 virtual International Youth Day which featured the youngest Deputy Minister of Information and Technology in Namibia, Hon. Emma Theofelus; and the Youngest STEM Change Maker Award at the 2021 Genius Education Zambia Awards.

Mwangala believes her success is determined by her “ability to do what she loves doing to her heart’s content.” Using her gifts to the best of her abilities, she is willing to continue to challenge the status quo in STEM by harnessing the power within her in practical ways to bring about positive change in her community and inspire other young girls towards sustainable development.

Given that about 418 million people still lack access to even a basic level of drinking water in Africa, access to clean water continues to be a permeating development issue. As access to clean, affordable, and safe drinking water is both a fundamental human right recognized by the United Nations and Goal 6 of the United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals, environmental and health benefits are both captured in Mwangala’s water purifier innovation.

She has also demonstrated that solar energyremains crucial not only in providing the world with an opportunity to cut down on its carbon footprint, but also to confront the numerous impediments to sustainable economic growth worsened by climate change.

 

This article was culled from Planet Forward.org

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