Girls in Uganda are Learning To Code Their Way to Bright Futures
A technological revolution is sweeping across Africa, and Uganda is determined not to leave girls behind. While many African women face economic challenges due to poor governance, unemployment, and early marriage, but now young girls and women are getting another chance to earn a living for themselves by coding, thanks to the Women In Technology Uganda (WITU) initiative.
More than 500 girls have so far completed the training and over a hundred have secured jobs in the tech field. Through the WITU Tech Kids program, Ugandan girls as young as six are getting basic computer science lessons which helps prepare them for future advancement in the technology field. But what exactly is this WITU initiative and what is its mission?
What is Women In Technology Uganda
Founded in 2012 by Barbara Birungi, a female 31-year-old tech and social entrepreneur, WITU is an initiative aiming at empowering Ugandan girls to embrace technology and to build their careers in the field. It also seeks to address the technological gender gap by building the capacities of these women to a level that makes them competitive with their male counterparts in the sector.
Uganda as a country has for decades been plagued by poor governance and dictatorship. The current president, Yoweri Museveni has been in power since 1986 and does not harbor plans of quitting any time soon. Accusations of corruption, nepotism, injustices and impunity have been consistently levied against the Ugandan government, but as you would have it, nothing is done.
As power and wealth become increasingly more concentrated among fewer individuals in Uganda, many others are left in extreme hopelessness and poverty. Health, infrastructure, education and other systems of basic needs are largely dysfunctional and further worsening the situation. It is situations such as these that push underage girls to choose marriage as an escape route, or due to just having nothing else to do.
Having seen the situation on the ground, where it is always women and children (girls mostly) who suffer most, Barbara was inspired to start the Women In Technology Uganda initiative to help empower these girls at an early age to pursue tech careers and to see more options for their futures.
How Women In Technology Uganda Helps Girls
WITU, which has Google as a partner among others, has several programs targeting girls of various age groups. One popular program is the Career Leadership and Life Skills Program (CLSP) which targets girls who have dropped out of school. Through this program, WITU reaches out to them, equips them with entrepreneurial skills and then challenges them to be innovative and create sustainable self-employment. The girls then form groups and identify an income generating activity, create a business plan, test its viability and then roll it out. The best ideas are usually supported by small loans to kick start them. The girls are also equipped with employability skills to help those who do not venture into business seek employment.
WITU has also been engaging girls aged 13 to 18 years by teaching them how to code through a program called Code Girls. The aim is to put them on an innovation path where they have the expertise to develop innovative apps, games or websites that could help solve the many problems Ugandans face. The girls learn coding skills and programming languages including app inventor, ruby on rails, python and user-centered design.
WITU does much more than just teach the technical skills though. WITU also sets up internships programs, assigns mentors, teaches teamwork and life skills and practices a holistic theory of change. WITU “looks at a girl or young woman’s life in a 360 angle, looking at personal development, leadership, life skills, health, computer science, entrepreneurship, business skills and job linkages or smart loans.”
To learn more about WITU, you can visit their website at witug.org. Go girls go!