The Technogirl program aims to train South African girls in science fields. Photo: YouTube/UNICEF

Giving girls the tools to build a better world is not just a way to get things done, but it truly can transform societies. While technology has its obvious drawbacks, when it is put to thoughtful, purposeful, and humanitarian uses, it can move mountains. On 24 August 2018, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 80 girls from 34 African countries who attended the first Coding Camp. The camp marked the launch the African Girls Can CODE Initiative, a joint program of the African Union Commission, UN Women and the International Telecommunication Union.

Eno Ekanem, 15, said, “We are trying to build a drone that is controlled by SMS messaging that will be able to dispense medicine in rural areas. Because people in rural areas don’t have access to medicines. We were six girls in my group, from Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Senegal and Nigeria. It was cool to work in a group like this. You learn about coding, but also other aspects of how we share ideas and develop them. You also learn about the different countries and cultures. We listen to each other, give space to speak and try to work [together]. Of course, we could build drones to help people beyond just delivering LaCroix or taking pictures of their neighbor’s house. Why didn’t Silicon Valley think of that?

With girls focused on solving problems, it brings about both personal and social change. Since 2004, Technogirl, a partnership of UNICEF, the South Africa Department of Education and Uweso Trust, has trained over 100, 000 girls in South Africa in STEM fields. And 5,000 have received scholarships to universities. Gugulethu Zungu was born with a rare genetic defect that have affects her health, but she was chosen for program this year because of her in good grades in math and science. She has decided that her dream is to study forensics. “I like investigating and solving mysteries. And it actually makes me believe that, indeed, nothing is impossible. You just have to think outside of the box.” Rewarding curiosity with opportunities to learn seems so obvious, and yet so foreign.

Bravo to these initiatives that are providing girls that crucial combination that historically they have been denied: Education, opportunity, and luck.

Ashley E. Remer
Girl News International

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