13 March 2014

Rwanda: I Want to Empower Farmers Using ICT Solutions - Ms Geek Rwanda

ON INTERNATIONAL Women's Day, Rwanda's first ever Ms Geek Rwanda contest was held at Lemigo Hotel. Now, this was no glitzy young-girls-strutting-around-in-swimsuits kind of contest. On the contrary, the last five girls standing battled it out through their knowledge and skills in Information Communication Technology (ICT).

The competition, which was an initiative of Girls in ICT Rwanda, a group of women of all ages working in ICT including entrepreneurs, professionals and students, was aimed at encouraging young girls and women to embrace science and technology, a field that has wrongly been categorised as ' a men's thing'.

The winner, Nancy Sibo, shared her experience and the lessons she's learned in ICT with Women Today's Doreen Umutesi.

Briefly tell us about yourself

I am Nancy Sibo, the first born in a family of seven children. I'm currently a fourth year-student pursuing a Bachelors in Agriculture at the University of Rwanda College of Agriculture, Animal science and Veterinary Medicine. I'm very passionate about building the competence of my fellow girls and the community as a whole especially in finding solutions to our nation's barrier towards sustainable development.

What were you up to before the taking part in the competition?

I have always been a focused girl who always sees possibilities regardless of the odds. My interest in leadership and entrepreneurship sparked a passion and I eventually led a project that promotes health, empowerment and rights of the girl child in Africa called 'Hands up for her Initiative'

I'm also passionate about social media and gender equality. I have also taken part in climate change awareness and adaptation initiatives.

Did you think you stood a chance of winning considering you were up against four other competitors who also had the potential?

I believed that I stood a chance of winning because I had confidence and a deep understanding of my project. Furthermore I had good mentors who taught me the art of public speaking and I believe it also helped me in gaining the top spot in the competition.

How and why did you come up with the Mobile Cow application?

Since I'm doing a Bachelors in agriculture, specifically in the department of animal production as I informed you earlier, as a fourth year student, I'm conducting my research and my topic deals with the Girinka programme which is a government policy.

After realising some gaps and challenges that the farmers face, I came up with the Mobile Cow Application as a solution to help these farmers to become successful and it is a way to generate income for the farmers and the country too.

How do you feel about this competition in general?

I'm really thankful to the organisers and sponsors that supported this initiative. This competition is one way of encouraging young girls to take on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and ICT. I really recommend that this competition is organised annually.

What inspired you into joining the competition?

I really believed that I had the ability to participate in this competition because I had all that was required to take part in it. The competition also sparked my constant need to provide solutions to address the challenges my community faces so I decided to take part and I'm happy I won.

How did your friends and family feel about the competition? Did you get any help from someone to develop the application?

Everyone is happy about this achievement. My family is proud to have such an ambitious girl. However this is one among several awards that I have attained before. I'm happy that throughout the competition, I got many supporters and this is a reward for their support.

What are your future plans?

I plan to join many other initiatives, especially those that are helping, encouraging and empowering other Rwandan girls to join the ICT sector. I would really want to tell everyone out there that Girls in ICT is not science fiction but a reality.

Why Agricultural Engineering?

From childhood, I knew I would do technical studies and agriculture. But I decided, through school, that I will mainly focus on agriculture because it's the backbone of our economy. I entered this field to make an effort to gain skills on how to develop the sector since it's the most shunned by the youth yet it's the most important for the development of our country.

What is your advice to Rwandan girls who still think that science is a man's field?

I need to tell Rwandan girls that we are supported and empowered in all corners. We are also able to do what our brothers can do. It's high time we got rid of the misconceptions and fight against the wrong approach of ICT as a boy's thing. The only way to reach that goal is through ourselves. Let's use the chance we have.

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