“Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.” ~ António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.
On March 8 every year, the world celebrate women’s achievements as well as spotlights critical obstacles women face across the world and the necessary steps needed to break all the barriers. Women are making an impact in technology, but the statistics are still shocking. According to a Women and Technology Study conducted for PwC some years ago, only 3% of women said a career in technology is their first choice, 78% of students couldn’t name a famous women working in technology, and back around 2017, a mere 5% of jobs in the technology industry were held by women.
To mark International Women’s Day, LakeHub hosted a 2 days female developers hackathon dubbed FemiDevs at the LakeHub academy to create tech solutions in five thematic areas based on the theme of the year; gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, as well as create a culture of innovation and collaborative learning environment for women.
The FemiDevs hackathon was sponsored by the French Embassy in Kenya and United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP). The objective of this hackathon was to provide overall tech solutions on Education, Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services, Child marriage, Teenage pregnancy as well as Female Genital Mutilation challenges.
Through the FemiDevs program, LakeHub continues to increase the participation of women in technology by providing incentives such as fully — funded scholarships and mentorship to girls and women in order to learn technology skills, work experience and come up with creative solutions to solve community problems.
“Having more women learn technology skills give them a chance to increase employment opportunities, earn additional income, and access knowledge and general information, consequent to their empowerment” ~ Dorcas Owinoh, Programs Director — LakeHub
During the hackathon, the participants were divided into six teams to reflect on solutions around Gender Equity as well as have candid conversations on challenges facing girls and women in accessing the digital space. Marlene Cherop Chirchir; Digital Programs Associate and the organiser of the FemiDevs hackathon, shared that the aim of this hackathon was to provide a platform for the girls to build innovative technology solutions solving women’s issues as well as encourage them to continuously challenge the status quo, attempt to shatter the glass ceiling, and break the bias women face on a daily basis.
The event culminated in a pitch presentation before a panel of 3 judges who were keen on seeing the girls’ innovation and creativity using tech, how the solutions created advanced the meaning of balance in the tech workforce, the role of men in enhancing gender parity, gender policies in the community and various other topics.
The judges were looking out for originality or at least a fresh approach to an old problem, creativity, social impact, technical difficulty, a design that delivered a beautiful experience and how bug-free the Apps were. Additionally, clear communication skills were also key for better coherent presentation of ideas.
Out of the six Apps developed, the top three Apps that made it to the cut included:
NatureMyFlower — an FGM App creating a safe space for FGM victims and reporting of perpetrators.
girlArise Website — a website addressing early child marriage content and acts as a channel of communication between the affected people, a safe place for whistle blowers to report and ta platform to share stories and opportunities.
SKUL — a web application that aims to mainstream school relevant information amongst parents, teachers and pupils. The application is modelled around a chat system that has the teacher as the super administrator who has sole authority to add and delete users to a particular chat. A parent will request the administrator to be added to the class chat, the administrator then sends the login information to the requesting party upon which they can access the chat.
The chat room has the functionality of division into different channels which allows easy access and decluttering of information. Both the administrator (teacher) and the users (parents) are able to share messages to all users simultaneously. The creators of this App; Yesha Patel, Lorna Akoth, Bellah Oyucho and Wendy Tabitha Akinyi believe that SKUL App will create convenience to parents in monitoring pupils’ performance, know resources needed for assignments beforehand and have assistive materials to help their children with assignments through extra materials and videos shared by teachers.
Realising that women are more exposed in the technology workforce
As a matter of fact, With rising demand for new technology, there is a significant need for women to be better supported in pursuing a career in STEM. Educators, businesses and individual mindsets must be broadened if barriers are going to be broken, stereotypes challenged and obstacles overcome to regarding women’s participation in and contribution to innovation and technology.
We need more technology funded programs both by local and foreign governments. We need more female role models and mentors. We need to overcome gender bias systematically and structurally. This is the only way to Break the Bias!