The New Times (Kigali)

16 April 2013

Rwanda: Girls in ICT Rwanda Take Campaign to Schools

When carrying out school visits, Girls in ICT members speak to teenage girls and encourage them to consider ICT as a career option and also help them to understand and appreciate the importance of developing ICT skills in any career, writes Doreen Umutesi

About fifteen girls formed a group which they named Girls in ICT Rwanda. Its main objective is to tour schools and encourage more girls to take on courses in Information Communication technology (ICT.)

The Girls in ICT Rwanda launched their annual activity calendar on March 22nd, 2013 at a Networking Night with their guest speaker, Ann Mei Chang, the Senior Advisor for Women and Technology in the US Department of State.

The activities stipulated in their calendar involve encouraging women entrepreneurs in ICT, visiting schools to talk to girls and encouraging them to take on courses in ICT.

When carrying out school visits, Girls in ICT members speak to teenage girls and encourage them to consider ICT as a career option and also help them to understand and appreciate the importance of developing ICT skills in any career.

In an interview with Akaliza Keza Gara a member of Girls in ICT and Founder of Shaking Sun a multimedia company, she said that the government supports initiatives that empower women in ICT.

"One of our main goals is to encourage more girls offering ICT courses to join Girls in ICT Rwanda. When I talk to young girls, a lot of them say that they see it as a man's subject because people we see in the media doing ICT initiatives are often men. Even when they go to school they are surrounded by men so the girls tend to lose interest because they feel they are the odd ones," Akaliza explains.

She also said that there are allegations that women feel intimidated when they are surrounded by men hence women work better when they are surrounded by fellow women.

"Girls are just choosing not to take on ICT so as Girls in ICT Rwanda, part of what we do is to encourage and show them that if we took on the ICT course they can do the same. We encourage them to join us as the rallying troupes' idea. Our target after this year is to find out how many schools we visited and how many girls are offering ICT courses to measure our impact," Akaliza Discloses.

Although Information Technology is considered a male-dominated field, Girls in ICT Rwanda want to break the misconceptions that it is out of bounds for women.

Cathy Bishop, Lecturer of ICT at the University of Colorado Boulder said that girls are actually very good at ICT and this can be seen when they get practical.

"Misconceptions about ICT being more about Math and physics are limiting and not true. The girls need to think about it differently and believe that they can take on courses in ICT," Bishop reveals.

Kigali Institute of Science and Technology a renown University in the field of ICT this year passed out over 400 graduates, of the 387 who were awarded Bachelors, 90 were female. This is a clear indicator that fewer girls are taking on sciences.

According to Clarisse Iribagiza, CEO of a mobile computing technology company HeHe Limited, the biggest challenge for girls not taking on courses in ICT is the way the science and technology subjects are structured in schools.

"I studied computer engineering and until they combined it with entrepreneurship where I could see that I could build a programme that can solve a problem in society. Before they did that, I was not sure where I was taking this course besides repairing people's computers," Iribagiza expresses.

The 25-year-old Iribagiza is also a member of Girls in ICT Rwanda.

"For instance, one of this year's activities is an essay writing competition where girls will write on how ICT impacts their community. This way, they will know that ICT can actually solve problems in society. ICT is a tool that can fast-track you in whatever you do," Iribagiza says.

Rwanda was ranked among the top 10 countries in Africa that are in better suited to benefit from new Information and Communication Technologies by the 2013 Networked Readiness Index, released early this month by the World Economic Forum (Wef) and European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD).

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