Girls in ICT Day

Ruth Atim May 21, 2021

The importance of young girls in ICT is key, especially in a developing country like Uganda where online studying has been adopted and lack of computer access can mean prolonged gaps in education.

IMG_4316.JPG

The fourth Thursday of April every year has been ring-fenced for the Girls in ICT. And this year, the 22nd April, 2021, we commemorated the International Girls in ICT Day to draw attention to the critical need for more girls and women in the area of information communication technology (ICT) and also to encourage young girls to look into this field of study.

Many events and activities were held to commemorate this day but in Uganda, Gulu to be specific, the Gender Tech Initiative-Uganda with support from the Digital Human Rights Lab celebrated this day by bringing together 20 young primary and secondary students to attend the event. They got to know what an ICT career is, the benefits of choosing this career path, how to ensure inclusive, equal access and use of ICTs for girls and how girls can become digital creators for tomorrow.

Highlight from this Year’s celebration.

During the event, many of the participants highlighted lack of exposure to TECH at an early stage as one of the reasons why many of them and their colleagues opt for art subject combination at an early age.

Adyero Nora, a primary six pupil, says their school has a computer lab, but most of the girls are not given a chance to even power the computers on.

“The boys are so fast, when it’s time for computer lessons, they run very fast to enter the computer lab, by the time we girls reach, all seats have been taken and we stand at the back” “We can’t run, because they will still laugh at us that we look funny while running in our school uniforms”, Adyero adds.

Such comments and attitude has made many girls shun Science careers because they feel intimidated by the boys.

Girls in ICT professions 

The importance of young girls’ proactive and meaningful digital participation is particularly key, especially in a developing country like Uganda where online studying has been adopted and lack of computer access can mean prolonged gaps in education. In addition, limited access to online information could also have a significant impact on everyday decision-making and, consequently, the futures of girls.

Estimates suggest that less than 35% of positions in the tech industry and related professions are taken by women; including only 24% of leadership positions. More broadly, there are gender inequalities in internet access and device ownership, and social and cultural norms which may still restrict meaningful access and use of ICT for women.

Genesis of the Girl in ICT Day

This day which was first Introduced by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has lived to see very many events being held worldwide to commemorate it as a way of inspiring, encouraging and advocating for the need to bring more girls and young women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), ICT (information and communications technology) and the tech.

ITU estimates that within the next 10 years, there will be more than two million technology jobs that cannot be filled because of a lack of digital specialists. Girls and young women who learn coding, app development and computer science will not only be well-placed for a successful career in the ICT sector; but advanced ICT skills are rapidly becoming a strong advantage for students as it gives them an edge in a competitive job market, provide a higher salary and enhance career mobility.

This year’s celebration was disproportionately affected by the pandemic as only 20 students and pupils could be invited because of social distance guidelines. Unfortunately, this limited the amount of girls reached by this event. Hence many girls in the region could not access information and knowledge that could have probably changed their mind-set on ICT as a career.

Girls in ict.JPG

The value of girls in STEM and ICT

For one thing, we simply don’t have enough talent in the ICT industry as it is, and supporting the education of girls and women in ICT is in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5, gender equality. And we know gender equality is beneficial for everyone!

There is overwhelming evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies and countries. Women's participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous.

Many young girls have interest and have attempted to study ICT/STEM but, obviously, this isn’t how this story usually ends, and we lose so many girls who could have otherwise become brilliant engineers or mathematicians or scientists.

So, what can we as parents, teachers, mentors, or any other person knowing a young girl do? Below are a few ideas;

  • Pique her interest and expose her to STEM subjects.
  • Be there for her. Having support at home is key for a young girl to grow, and I’ve personally seen great examples throughout my role as a mentor and digital safety trainer that parents who step outside their comfort zones to learn new skills together with their daughters - and the outcomes were so rewarding!
  • Encourage and inspire her. If you work in a STEM field, show her what you do! If not, maybe you know someone she can talk to. If you have friends with daughters who have STEM experience, encourage them to meet up.
  • See what programs are available for your daughter outside school. Uganda has many institutions that have come up and offer Tech lessons for children for example Fundi bots, coding kids UG, coding academy Uganda. Check them out and have your young girl enrolled.
  • Also, representation matters, and if girls see female scientists in the books they read, the shows they watch, and the toys they play with, it can immediately change their perception on how they see themselves and others. So, it’s also important to watch such documentaries, movies and TV shows with your daughter as it helps to stimulate their brains into considering a tech career at an early age.

If you’re not her parent, you can still guide and mentor her!

Borrowing from an African proverb, it takes a (virtual) village to teach a child.