Today, Paradigm Initiative joins women and girls around the world to mark the International Girls in ICT Day. This day is set aside annually to celebrate the achievements of women in the technology sector, highlighting the important role they play in building a better future, and encouraging more girls and young women to pursue tech-related careers. In Africa, Girls in ICT Day is especially meaningful, as it helps to celebrate the progress made towards reducing the digital gender divide and provides stakeholders with an opportunity to reflect on the importance of digital safety and security for girls and young women. The digital gender gap can be closed by building digital skills and promoting ICT education for girls and young women. As such, the theme for this year’s Girls in ICT Day is “Digital Skills for Life.”
At PIN, the thought of girl power excites us. We believe the future is technologically advanced, automated, virtual – and therein lies immense potential that young women and girls can tap into. Access to ICT allows women to access and share information and resources, build networks and connections, create opportunities for financial independence, provide a safe space for women to express their opinions, challenge traditional gender roles, and create new forms of engagement and leadership.
Together with our partners, we have over the years worked to inspire and encourage girls in Africa to pursue a future in tech. This includes providing access to safe spaces, necessary resources, and tools for girls to engage in ICT activities. One success story is that of ANN OGUDORO from Aba, Abia State, Nigeria who started off as a primary school teacher and could barely make ends meet. Ann, like many girls from under-served communities, had no additional skills to enable her to find a better paying job. In 2018 however, after successfully going through our LIFE (Life skills, ICT, Financial literacy and Entrepreneurship) training program, Ann earned a promotion at her workplace. This enabled her to earn enough to be able to get herself into a tertiary institution where she is studying to advance her career. Through the LIFE Legacy project alone, Paradigm Initiative has directly reached and impacted over 3000 women and girls from across the continent.
We have learnt a lot in the past years of implementing ICT projects targeted at women and girls in Africa. Through these learnings, we have identified key principles that others, interested in contributing to promoting women and girl’s in ICT, can abide by. Through these principles, we can all work together to enhance and multiply the number of young women in Information and Communications Technology. The principles are listed below;
- Designing with (not for) women and girls in ICT programs.
- Creating a conducive environment for girls from under-served communities to pursue ICT-related careers. This means providing access to resources such as computers, affordable data, and customised training.
- Providing direct and indirect mentorship for young girls. We have witnessed an increase in female participation when girls are trained by female trainers especially in parts of the continent where patriarchy levels are high.
- Collecting, Analysing and Disseminating data disaggregated by gender to provide for an in-depth gendered analysis of our ongoing programs.
- Encouraging girls to participate in tech-related careers and providing them with the necessary support needed to succeed up to 12 months post training.
- Raising awareness (both online and offline) on the need for more gender equality in the technology sector. We do this through research, campaigns, dialogues, and hosting conferences on the importance of closing the gender gap in the tech sector.
- Openly celebrating the achievements of women in the technology sector through highlighting the success stories of female tech entrepreneurs and honouring women who have made significant contributions to the tech industry.
- Financially supporting girls to go through tech programs. Like most of our other programs, the LIFE legacy project is fully funded by PIN.
- Challenging young women to take ownership of their own digital skills. By taking time to research the different digital tools and technologies available and staying up to date with the latest trends.
- Incorporating affirmative action in digital inclusion programs by making sure that slots are intentionally reserved for girls, especially in communities where there is apathy towards acquiring digital skills by the female gender.
There is no doubt that Africa has the potential to become a leader in the technology sector. As we celebrate this year’s International Girls in ICT Day, let us recognize the importance of girls and young women and seek to increase programs that support women in ICT. By so doing, we are helping create a brighter, sustainable future for all.
Written by Miriam-Beatrice Wanjiru, PIN’s Programs Officer, East Africa.