CAREER PROFILE : Bridging gender gap in technology

Tuesday February 2 2016

Carolyne, the digital change maker. PHOTO I

Carolyne, the digital change maker. PHOTO I COURTESY 

By Esther Kibakaya @ekibakaya

Carolyne Ekyarisiima is a social entrepreneur, passionate about the youth especially girls, women and children with the aim of bridging the gender gap in tech. At 29, Carolyne is married to her campus sweetheart and she is a mother of two wonderful boys, whom she is extremely proud of.

She is the founder of Apps and Girls Foundation, an organisation that works to bridge the gender gap in technology in Tanzania which has been caused by lack of women role models, stereotype that girls are not good at STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), low digital literacy in the country and lack of knowledge about tech careers from both personal connections and career guidance.

Carolyne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Master’s degree in Information Systems from Kampala International University.

Carolyne believes in empowering girls with ICT skills because she believes in their capacity and innovation power to change the community and build an innovative generation – making Tanzania a better place for all, despite their gender.

Carolyne is a Tigo and Reach for change Digital change maker and was awarded a certificate of achievement in 2014 for her great efforts in improving children’s lives through innovation and digital technology at the Hackathon Prototype Change 2014 Sweden.

Do you have any other special training that has prepared you for your career?

Yes I do. I have attended various trainings of which without them I would not have managed to . I attended a Social Entrepreneurship training at Action Aid Global platform in 2013 which made me realise that what I had started doing was social entrepreneurship. I have attended several trainings from Reach for Change incubation such as Impact story telling in stockholm Sweden in 2015 and many more like Branding and Communication, Networking and Mobile App development with Android Platform at COICT in 2013.

Did you have a model or idol who you aspired to be while growing up?

I always looked up to Engineer Winnie Byanyima. She was the first female Ugandan to become an aeronautical engineer who later received a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering . I met her in my primary school when she came to talk to us, I was very inspired and wished to be a powerful woman like her.

Did you have specific goals as a youth? How did you go about achieving those goals?

From childhood I wanted to be a doctor. All my life revolved around that career. I focused on making sure I was good with sciences and identified destructions which would stop me from achieving my goal and one of them was to stay away from dating until university.

As I was structuring my life I also realised the powerful things which helped me to focus and excel and that was God and my respect for my parents and took their advice because I learned it was meant for my good. I made a prayer that I lived praying for quite a long time.

“I set three specific things that I wanted to achieve after I graduate d from university which became real, its a miracle I testify about!. I had a clear focus and knew really what I wanted. Unfortunately at university, I was selected for Computer Science instead of medicine.

My whole career life changed, I barely knew a thing about ICT. Everything was new and I felt my whole world had crushed. However, after the first semester I put myself together and set goals and those were to work hard and get high score so that I become an assistant lecturer.

Has there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to take the direction in life that you did?

Yes! That moment when I when I was offered a scholarship to study Computer Science and was denied one for medicine. It was one of the saddest times as a youth because I had never dreamt of taking that path. But many things happen for a reason. Here I am in Tech, running the amazing Apps & Girls, happy and satisfied because I definitely found a way how to contribute to my community by changing people’s lives. I have never regretted taking this direction.

Tell us about your startup Apps&Girls?

Apps and Girls aims to bridge the tech gender gap in Tanzania by providing quality coding trainings in (web programming, mobile app development, game development) and entrepreneurship skills to girls between the age of 10 to 18 in respective schools where we create coding clubs.

Every week our team conducts trainings in different coding clubs in schools. We also organise holiday events such as workshops, exhibitions, hackathons, campathons, bootcamps and competitions to empower and inspire more girls to pursue computing and to develop innovations.

Apart from coding and pitching during these events the girls are also groomed to live a healthy lifestyle and to learn how to use the skills gained to make a productive change in the comunity. Our mission is to make these girls tech drivers /leaders creating startups and products solving community problems.

What inspired you to start Apps&Girls?

While lecturingat Kampala International University, Tanzania, I was always puzzled to find so few girls in my classes while many boys seemed eager to take ICT courses. Also having participated in local innovation competitions and events at tech hubs where women were under represented made me realise the gender gap in ICT.

I remember a colleague asking “But where are your fellow women?” I started mobilizing university girls and organized events to attract more girls into ICT classes and tech entrepreneurship.

Yet, I soon realized that I had to target even younger girls to make sure that the new generation of female students would be highly inspired to take up ICT courses / become tech drivers in their communities. That is when I started teaching coding to girls in my living room with borrowed laptops and personal funds.