Bridging the tech gender gap in Tanzania with Apps and Girls Foundation
By Cynthia Bavo
The gender gap in the technology (tech) sector in Africa is huge. Women remain under-represented in tech programmes, the tech workforce, and in tech businesses. As a result, there is a lack of women role models, a stereotype that girls are not good at Science, Engineering, Technology and Math (STEM), low digital literacy in the country and lack of knowledge about tech careers both from personal connections and from career guidance.
In Tanzania, Carolyne Ekyarisiima is trying to change all that through her foundation, Apps and Girls. Through coding clubs formed in over 20 secondary schools in Tanzania, she teaches young girls under the age of 18 how to code and to use technology to solve community problems.
Why Apps and Girls?
‘When I was in university, I was one of the very few girls studying computer science. When I later graduated and started teaching at Kampala International University, I noticed the same disparity in the numbers of female students in the program in comparison to the male students,’ says Carolyne Ekyarisiima, during her interview on Startup Grind Dar, a networking event for startup founders.
Her personal experience with the tech gender gap pushed her to start a coding programme for young girls in Dar es Salaam. She wanted to see more women in tech. So, in July, 2013, Carolyne organized Apps and Girls’ first coding programme with a group of 20 girls that she had recruited from local colleges. The aim of the programme was to teach them different coding languages, basically advance their coding knowledge. She had no funds, no laptops and no space to hold the training just her passion and her tech skills.
‘I trained the first group of girls in my house with laptops that I had borrowed from my college students,’ she confesses. Carolyne later realized that training girls who are already pursuing studies in tech would not change anything. Hence she decided to shift her focus to younger girls who were still in secondary school so that she can influence them to pursue an education and career in technology.
With funds from an adult digital literacy project that she had implemented earlier on, Carolyne formed her first girl coding club at Al-Muntazir Secondary School and the rest is history as they say.
Apps and Girls’ Success Story
Carolyne has formed 20 coding clubs in different schools in Tanzania. Her programme has trained over 1000 girls in Dar es Salaam and all her girls are doing amazing things. Some of these girls include: Modesta Joseph, a 17 year old who developed Our Cries, a system working to end students’ harassments by daladala (bus) touts that is now recognized by SUMATRA; Asha Abbas, a 17 year old who developed Aurateen, a system that provides sex education and offers counselling for youth and that has been shortlisted for the Anzisha Prize; and Winnie Godlove, an 18 year old who developed Fanikisha Mama, a system that empowers women who recovered from fistula through trainings and microloans.
Carolyne has also been privileged to work with Tigo Reach for Change which she says has really helped her develop her business skills. She is also a Mandela Washington YALI programme and one of the fellows from Tanzania who received a $25,000 grant for Apps and Girls.
To learn more about Carolyne Ekyarisiima and her work, please visit her website at www.appsandgirls.com
For more details about Startup Grind Dar and our events, please visit www.startupgrind.com/dar-es-salaam/