Empowering young African girls

Fifth-edition coding camp
Michelline Nawatises
The Information and Communication Technology of Namibia (MICT), in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and partners, hosted the Connected African Girls Coding Camp from 16 until 22 August at the Windhoek Palm Hotel.
The coding camp brought together more than 100 girls from across the country, as well as virtual participants from across the continent and relevant stakeholders to create a conducive ecosystem and establish synergies.
The camp targeted young women and girls between the ages of 12 and 25 years to provide the necessary technical education and skills to promote Africa's integration, generate inclusive economic growth, stimulate job creation, and ensure Africa's ownership of modern tools for digital management.
This seven-day tailored workshop focused on rotational classes in the areas of 3D printing; animation; gaming; web development; turtle stitch; robotics; Internet of Things; fashion; design thinking; and computational thinking.
It also offered master classes on confidence building, gender, Agenda 2063, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), human rights, public speaking, and project pitching.
Namibia hosted the fifth edition of the camp, which to date has been hosted in four other countries, namely, Ethiopia, Guinea, Cameroon and Senegal.
The Connected African Girls Coding Camp initiative is a series of hybrid boot camps created for African girls and young women, which was launched by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
Its aim is to bridge the digital divide and advance ICT skills across the continent. Thus far, four effective hybrid coding camps have been organised in collaboration with UN Women, the Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) and host governments, with the outcome of reaching more than 15 000 trainees. Empowerment
"This is well in line with the mandate of MICT in Namibia which involves creating an enabling environment for ICT development and access to information for socioeconomic growth, this is to be a catalyst for an informed and inclusive ICT smart Namibia," information minister Peya Mushelenga said.
He said the Namibia camp was expected to reach over 1 000 girls or even more.
"Empowering previously disadvantaged communities with skills to take advantage of the opportunities that technology brings is cardinal to ensure that we address the current inequalities that we face as a society," he said.

He added that the Universal Access Fund (USF) will be activated soon, which will provide for the rollout of services through demand-side management to provide access to secondary schools and clinics in all under-served and unserved areas in Namibia.
Through the USF, Namibia will ensure the upgrade of 122 towers to 4G and the building of an additional 36 additional towers in rural areas.
The USF will pay for 4G routers with uncapped data for secondary and vocational schools and clinics in areas with insufficient coverage.
This regulatory intervention will provide 227 institutions with 4G services. Moreover, 36 new sites will provide access to 49 institutions with services and connect the communities they serve.
He explained that Namibia will endeavour to address the availability of smart devices at affordable prices.
UN resident coordinator, Sen Pang, said the digital revolution offers an opportunity to empower girls and young women by developing their creativity, enhancing their entrepreneurial skills, and placing them at the heart of the community.
"In our endeavours to leave no one behind, harnessing ICTs in education will go a long way in contributing to achieving Goal 17 of Agenda 2063's aspiration, which seeks to eliminate all barriers to quality education, health and social services for women and girls on the African continent."
Pang said he is convinced that the Connected African Girls ICT boot camp will bridge the digital divide and advance ICT skills across the African continent. Furthermore, he believes that youth empowerment is vital for the prosperity of a nation, and ICT can facilitate such inclusive development. This requires the dedicated involvement of the private sector partnership.
"Learning ICT skills at a young age sets you up for economic empowerment. This initiative provides you with an opportunity of a lifetime, to learn coding, app development, and computer science, and you will open yourself up for a career in the ICT sector."
Deputy minister of information, Emma Theofelus, said hosting this fifth hybrid camp will encourage girls and women to feel at home in the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) fields.
"It empowers learners with technical and soft skills so they establish the right foundation for long-term success in STEAM education, employment, and entrepreneurship, and thrive in the ever-evolving digital technology industry."
Theofelus said empowering girls and women to access the benefits of the internet and phones will strengthen them in fincances, business and entrepreneurship. She also pointed out that ICT skills could help address social issues such as sexual gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy.
"It won't, of course, cure the incidence of these occurrences, but it will surely reduce them."