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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid