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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora