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10 Oct Young African Women – Coding Their Way Forward

We are now in a day and age where we’re surrounded by technology. From that, we can safely assume the large need for developers. So I put it to you, care to venture a guess on the percentage of women in open source coding? A few years ago, this very question was put forth at a mini-summit by GNOME foundation- naturally, most of the audience guessed between the 20 to 30 percentile; but were left absolutely baffled on learning the truth. Only 1.5% of the total developers for open source were women.

It’s great to see that this number is on a steady rise from the abysmal 1.5%, and in that stride- we have the participants for African Girls Can CODE Initiative. The four-year program for digital literacy, coding, and professional development, provided by the joint committee of the African Union Commission (AUC), UN Women Ethiopia and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Among the many that attended- Khayrath Kombo, 15, is a budding young programming enthusiast who believes the value of education trumps her societal pressures. She studies in Tanzania and is the only girl in her computer sciences club. Among other personal goals, she’s destined to be an inspiration to the others back at home to pursue computer science; should it be their calling.

Another 15-year-old inspiration is Eno Ekanem from Nigeria. She is a participant in the initiative and has insight as to why the popularity of computer education is as low as it is. “Girls face discrimination in the sector because computer science has always been seen as a course for boys, not girls”- she says.

She’s expressed disdain in this careless attitude toward quality education and has even been pigeonholed into a backward societal stigma. She exclaims that she’s been asked why she isn’t devoting more time learning to be a better housewife. Such comments haven’t phased her but been the tinder that fuels her passion to be a coder.

Eno reiterates her love for the initiative as the group activities she has gotten the chance to work on has educated her beyond the understanding of computer science. “It was cool to work in a group like this. You learn about coding, but also other aspects of how we share ideas and develop them. You also learn about the different countries and cultures.”

Her recent work has her building and programming a drone to work off SMS cues. This technology will be used to dispense medicine in rural areas to ease the access. The proverbial ‘two birds with one stone’ come to mind as we see the direct results of a simple act – education.

Education should never be treated as a gift, but a right. These words are crystal clear in initiatives such as these as they help empower those who want to be better than their circumstance allow. The initiative has already educated upwards of 80 women from 34 African countries. The African Girls Can Code Initiative will run from 2018-2022 and is expected to reach more than 2,000 girls through 18 Coding Camps.

We are in full support of movements that empower humans worldwide to get digital and extend their reach. There is absolutely no limit to our ability to achieve together.

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