Why more women in Uganda should get involved in Science and Technology

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Lots of questions have been asked and research has been carried out to try and find out why the number of females interested in ICTs is less, Educators have also collectively come together to figure out why but no answer is given/ got. The best explanation, from years of analysis and interviewing is Culture and that computing is not viewed as a girls’ sport. Young women aren’t exposed to computing or steered in that direction by their parents peers or career counselors.

Yet the technology industry is not without impressive female role models e.g. Three of the most powerful tech companies in the world are headed by women: Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Face book, is on a mission to encourage women to “lean in mentorship program” to business challenges to make it to the top.(http://techcrunch.com/2015/02/06/enough-talking-time-to-solve-the-problem/), Marissa Mayer, the current president and CEO of Yahoo, a position she has held since July 2012 (https://twitter.com/marissamayer).

Some of the female and male graduands of ICT training courses at WOUGNET Training Center in Kampala

Some of the female and male graduands of ICT training courses at WOUGNET Training Center in Kampala

And the president and chief executive of IBM, Virginia Rometty, graduated with honors’ from Northwestern University with a double major in computer science and electrical engineering www.forbes.com/profile/virginia-rometty-1/ are trying to mentor women to like ICTs, the gap is still big.

In our very own country, Uganda when talking about ICTs and women, one name will invariably pop up as a shinning role model that we look up to, i.e. Dr. Dorothy Okello the current Executive Director of Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and a senior Lecturer at Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Makerere University, Uganda, a member of the Institution of Professional Engineers (UIPE) Council, GSMA mWomen Programme expert, and currently working with Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology of Makerere University,  member, United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN GAID). Her works in the through support of ICTs in the country are visible, read more about her in; https://ug.linkedin.com/in/dorothyokello.

Looking back as to when I was a child growing up or take an example of the communities we live in, children in their teens, while boys are discovering cars, latest electronics and machines, girls are discovering books and movies. As they get older in adolescence, the female mind drives at partying, gossiping about friends, fashion and relationships, the males discuss cars, video games, latest electronic gadgets or football. This is because that’s how society has led on, girls are meant to be soft, act soft, walk soft and even talk, the hard tasks are always seen to be for men.

By the time they are getting into high school, science (technical subjects) are taken up by the boys and home economics for girls, but even if any of the girls had a choice, they will not venture into the world of tools and grease because they believe it’s “a boys’ thing”. The culture in which children are brought up will determine how they will live their lives.
NB. It’s not that women have less interest in ICTs; I think it’s one’s upbringing and one’s occupation that will either boost or discourage girls from having interest. We as women need to change our attitude towards technology if we want to see change and increase in number. Lets read about more women and their success stories http://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2012/06/05/heres-the-real-reason-there-are-not-more-women-in-technology/.

On this note therefore, there is need to start up more African hubs to support or have programs/initiatives that young tech women can actively participate. However the problem at hand is that these hubs and the women initiatives in existence at the moment are not doing a good job in sensitizing and reaching out to the few tech women entrepreneurs who want to be engaged and gain valuable support to grow their ventures. It is in this account therefore that WOUGNET  like ever before has taken up the initiative to provide advocacy and sensitization on ICTs to the women in various communities in partnerships with several organisations

WOUGNET with the financial support from several development partners tries to create a platform where some of the above mentioned issues are blocked out by taking the services down to where there is need, for example, ICT trainings are carried out in the various communities where culture seems to be so followed;  e.g. under the project “Enhancing Access to Agricultural Information using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)” whose primary target is rural women farmers in Apac District, with partner women groups in Gulu, Lira and Oyam Districts, the establishment of Kubere Information Center (KIC) in Northern Uganda, Apac district was established  and it has helped train many women in the use of ICTs which has showed a great impact and improvement on  access, use and application of ICTs in Agribusiness. This Center was established with support from CTA  (http://kic.wougnet.org/new/).

Compiled by

Arutun Frieda Daisy

Daisy is a Graduate of Information Technology and passionate about roles of female youth and women in Uganda towards greater involvement in Science, Technology, Mathematics (STEM) and Computer Science. She also works as Programs Assistant, Information Sharing and Networking, at WOUGNET