By Bazio Doreen
“To create a more diverse and inclusive tech world, we need to inspire and empower the next generation of female role models to pursue and develop their careers in technology and become innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs. It’s a process and it’s not always straightforward. It takes time, action, and support. Join us on a mission! Together we can make a difference.” Anna Radulovski, Founder & CEO at WomenTech Network
This year, Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF), will be on a mission to make a difference. And hey, it won’t be one of those ordinary ones that you are used to seeing us do. First, we had to add more females to the team. This year we are going to be deliberate about encouraging girls to embrace Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and we plan to be deliberate about it.
For over five years, we have organized training in https://yef-uganda.org/digital-literacy/ and held https://yef-uganda.org/digital-tech-boot-camp/ but none has yielded our dream of having more girls embrace not just ICT but the unstoppable digital transformation. Here are some of the interventions we will be undertaking with our various partners:
Just like many other countries, Uganda has made a deliberate effort to encourage ICT in schools through various ways including making it one of the subjects at the advanced school level. Similarly, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and its various partners have done the same for refugees and the communities that host them. https://www.unhcr.org/5fc126394.pdf. Refugees can use technology to overcome the obstacles that accompany forced displacement. But that is only possible when they have access and the required knowledge.
For this reason, we will be investigating the reasons behind the lower participation rates of girls and women in information and communication technologies (ICT), both academically and professionally. Although gender differences are believed to be one of the main causes, it is difficult to say that all girls face the same challenges. We will be fact-finding the reasons why the refugee girls especially in Adjumani (Uganda)’s refugee settlements have challenges in embracing ICT and trying to break the barriers that exist. Some of these challenges have already been highlighted by UNHCR.https://www.itu.int/hub/2020/10/3-ways-international-organizations-can-boost-the-participation-of-girls-in-icts
Under the #ICT4Bint campaign, this year, we will allocate more slots to girls in all our capacity-building and empowerment programs. We also plan to extend our #DigitalTechBootCamps to schools targeting mainly girls. Indeed, being deliberate for change would mean that the ‘mountain moves to Muhammed’.
In a world where technology is viewed as ‘male’; it is about time parents, teachers and the girls themselves change their attitude towards the digital transformation. While it is evident that there are few role models that girls can look up to; it is also true that many girls are generally discouraged from sciences right from their infant stage. It is time to share success stories to influence and role models to mentor. For refugee girls, the mindset biases are not only in their schools and homes but also in their culture dictating that at a certain age, they are ripe for marriage. The discussion on child marriages is not just about the greed of parents for dowry but also that no parent would be interested to invest in someone that they look forward to ‘exchanging for cows’. Maybe it is time refugee women leaders took on this noble role as well.
This April as we look forward to celebrating Girls in ICT Day, we hope that through our #ICT4Bint campaign, with partners we will make this year one for celebrating all the girls who go against all barriers, who challenge gender stereotypes, and who are actively championing for their equality. And also, because in the 21st century, we need more girls to find innovative solutions to the world´s problems, we will be waiting for you to join us on this mission.