Empowering African girls to be the next generation of STEM leaders

UNESCO strongly believes in empowering young people, particularly young women, through Computer science programming. Hence, within the framework of its YouthMobile Initiative, the Organization collaborated with the United States mission to UNESCO to conduct a YouthMobile activity during the “WiSci (Women in Science) Girl’s STEAM Camp” that took place in Rwanda from 26 July to 15 August 2015.

The three weeks training in Computer Science, Robotics, and Design/Art/Culture brought together a diverse group of 30 female U.S. high school students in Africa for an opportunity to study alongside 90 African students from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. It intended to address gender inequality at the high school level, and the crux of making important career and college education decisions.

A strong gender imbalance exists internationally, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, in regards to women’s presence in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Given the rapid expansion of IT in Africa, UNESCO believes that by targeting young women and providing them with the necessary 21st century skillset they will become powerful agents of change to achieve gender equality, one of the organization strategic priority. In partnership with the Rwandan NGO Her2voice, UNESCO conducted a 1 day mobile app training consisting of a mobile apps development to further develop the awareness that mobile computing power can be used for directly addressing challenges faced by young people challenges and problems faced by their local communities. 

Her2Voice co-founders, Neza Guillaine and Marie Claire Murekatete, provided the girls with basic technical skills based on the very popular App Inventor from MIT and the confidence to conceive and realize solutions through the creation of specific mobile apps depending on the objective of a certain particular app. 

Her2Voice operates throughout the entire country of Rwanda to provide skills and training that will allow girls to apply STEM in their fields of interest with regular competitions and prizes. It seeks to contribute to the needs of young girls in high schools by providing mentorship programs as a way of opening girls’ eyes to their own potential. Her2Voice also expose role models to them as a part of their everyday life to push them to embrace STEM innovation.

The co-founders are from the alumni of US State Department Techwomen program, and provide mentorship and direction to Rwandan teams participating in the Technovation Challenge.

The WiSci Girl’s STEAM Camp long term intent is to ensure that these young girls and their home communities continue to benefit after the camp is over by encouraging them to continue studies and careers in STEM fields. It also seeks to empower them to start projects, activities, and science camps at school, and seek further mentorship and networking opportunities.