Bridging the tech gender gap in TZ

Tuesday November 27 2018

Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Dar es

Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam Dr Inmi Patterson talks to students at the Girls Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). PHOTO I FILE 

By alome Gregory

Gone are the days when a young girl was left at home to help her mother with home chores. Through different initiatives to empower the girl child, girls are now enjoying their right to education same as the boy child.

Recently, through a two day Girls Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), an initiative engaged in programs related to tech entrepreneurship that seeks to bridge the tech gender gap, an event co-hosted by Apps and Girls and the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam saw a total of 156 students from 25 selected schools in Dar es Salaam take part in the program. The GES involved girls spending four months in their respective schools learning coding, pitching business model and other entrepreneurship skills through the guidance of mentors, experts and trainers.

Carolyne Ekyarisiima, founder of Apps and Girls, commented on the event saying that the summit aims to place young girls at the forefront of change by inspiring, supporting, mentoring and funding tech-driven innovations developed by girls as well as creating solutions for community problems whilst competing for prizes.

She further says that most girls participating at the GES training are from neighbourhoods with no opportunities, attending schools with limited facilities particularly computing facilities. Therefore, most of the projects they develop target at addressing problems related to their communities, such as poor education, gender issues, environmental challenges.

“To make this possible, Apps and Girls cooperated with school teachers by inviting them for training and workshops to know the importance of digital literacy to students. Teachers were asked to open coding clubs in their respective schools, of which they cooperated well. Another team of mentors was from Youth 4 Children hub located at College Of ICT who helped in teaching the girls,” says Ekyarisiima.

She adds that during the four months of training, girls worked in teams to find solutions to specific problems surrounding their community. They were able to reflect on their society to come up with their projects. This was done through research, consulting some institutions and individuals. Some of the projects are business ideas while others are simply campaigns aimed at improving young girls’ life standards in the community. “The most promising part about GES 2018 is that the projects have direct concerns about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means that these young ladies are at the forefront of finding solutions to world’s most disturbing problems such as shortage of safe water, gender inequality, poor education, early pregnancies and child marriages,” she says.

Three schools won different prizes through different projects they came up with. The schools are; Kondo Secondary school which won first prize, Jamuhuri Secondary school won second prize while Gerezani Secondary school took home third prize.

Commenting on GES, Celestina Richard, a teacher from Kondo Secondary as well as the mentor of her three students who participated at GES, says the school got a letter which wanted one teacher to participate in the training that will guide students to develop their ideas, to create solutions and how to use technology to solve problems that are coming from their ideas.

“In getting students to participate in GES I had to look for students with tech interest. I made an announcement at school and was able to get nine names. After a round of tests I remained with three students; Oliver Godliving, 14, Malelo Lameck, 16, and Eshe Mohammed, 17,” says Richard.

She adds that students have benefited a lot from GES by learning how to get solutions to their chosen project on lack of sanitary pads in schools. The students researched on their project for four weeks and came up with a solution of making a machine that will help them make pads.

“We teachers insist on working as a team. She also reminded students to improve on the ability of being good listeners when a teacher is communicating. Their ability to listen and act accordingly has helped them a lot in becoming winners,” she says.

Eshe Mohammed, says they came up with ‘lack of sanitary pads’ idea because it is a problem that affects many girls at schools. It was therefore an idea that resonated with many people in the community.

For Malelo Lameck, the idea reminded her of an incident with her best friend who experienced menstruation while at school, when they approached teachers for assistance they were just allowed to go home because the school also had no pads.

Lameck says GES is such a good initiative for girls because through it they become problem solvers on their own. Mohammed suggested that the next GES should also focus on girls out of Dar es Salaam because they also go through a lot of challenges in their own communities.

A teacher from Jamuhuri Secondary School, Nsia Shoo, says after the nine students were chosen, they assigned them to look for their own ideas from their communities. Later an idea was picked for implementation.

“We realised a very big number of students coming from upcountry have no place to stay when they arrive in the city due to lack of accommodation at campus. The chosen project focused on inadequate housing for university students,” she says.

Adding to that, she says she used to discuss a lot with the students on how they can improve on their project after every class they attended. This enabled them to see a way forward by consistently staying up to date with what they were taught.

Rakia Mohammed, 19, from Jamuhuri Secondary School is among those who won second place. She says they chose the topic on accommodation because they have relatives at universities who are struggling to find accommodation but majority are not successful.

Choosing the right topic for execution wasn’t easy, but eventually they were able to come to an understanding. Also, balancing between studies and working on the project presented another hurdles, but through commitment they were able to manage both studying and training.