News / Science & Technology

Ugandan Women Show Tech Isn’t Just for Boys

Women listen to a Girl Geek seminar on the programming language, Ruby, in Kampala, Uganda, March 28, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
Women listen to a Girl Geek seminar on the programming language, Ruby, in Kampala, Uganda, March 28, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
As East Africa’s technology sector takes off, one group in Uganda is working to erase gender stereotypes and ensure that women are not left behind. In Kampala, the gender gap in technology is slowly starting to narrow thanks to some very smart and tenacious “Girl Geeks."
 
East Africa’s tech sector is booming, churning out award-winning apps and innovative mobile solutions at an astounding rate. Its young companies are hives of creativity, but one thing is conspicuously missing: women.
 
Ugandan software engineer Christine Ampaire, 23, said girls here are subtly pressured to study “softer” subjects from an early age. She said that parents and teachers often think math and science are too difficult for girls.
 
“I won’t say they think girls are stupid, they just think that the hard stuff is for boys because they are stronger. They generally assume because she’s weaker physically, maybe mentally she will not cope with the hard stuff,” said Ampaire.
 
But Ampaire herself knows better. Two years ago, she co-founded Girl Geek Kampala, a group that teaches women coding, content management and the skills they need to make their apps and websites profitable. They also bring successful, tech-savvy women in to speak to the students and provide badly-needed role models.
 
One thing Ugandan women tend to lack, said Ampaire, is confidence.
 
“In our class, most of the girls just kept quiet and took the back seat when it came to doing coursework and all these other things. I thought maybe if we had an environment where it’s no judgment, it’s safe for everyone to say, ‘I want to start from the beginning,’ it would be really cool,” said Ampaire.
 
But confidence, she added, can also come from just knowing what you are doing.
 
“I feel the skills are part of that whole process of building confidence. If I can write my whole app by myself, then I’ll be more confident to say I’m a girl in tech,” said Ampaire.
 
Girl Geek’s courses are free, held in facilities donated by an IT company and a tech incubator. Ampaire estimates that they have trained around 150 women so far.
 
Similar programs have sprung up in Kenya and South Africa. As more women are trained, the gender gap in Africa's tech sector is shrinking. Ampaire said several years ago, when she went to tech events, she would know every one of the few women there.
 
Now, she sees more and more new faces.
 
“That kind of excites me. I’m like, ‘Wow, we are growing.’ The gender imbalance is still high, but you can see the difference. The change is happening,” she said.
 
It is happening within Girl Geek as well. Joldeen Mirembe joined as a trainee, unsure that she had what it takes to write code. Now, two years later, she helps lead the group and teaches classes herself.
 
Africans are eager to embrace technology, said Mirembe, and the continent is full of talent waiting to be discovered.
 
“Everyone here is so hungry to get these things and understand them. They just need to be given the opportunity, especially the girls. They can be as good as anyone out there, given the opportunity,” she said.
 
For Ugandan women to truly succeed in tech, said Ampaire, they need to create these opportunities for themselves, because no one else is going to do it for them.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs