Ugandan Women Show Technology Is Not Just for Men

    25 May, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

    East Africa is a growing technology center. The area creates award-winning applications for various of mobile devices at a fast rate. The newly established companies there are full of imagination, what they lack are females.

    One group in Uganda is working to guarantee that women are not left behind in the technology industry.

    Christine Ampaire is a 23-year-old computer program engineer in Uganda. She says girls in Uganda are pressured from an early age to study what many consider to be easy subjects. She says that parents and teachers often think math and science are too difficult for girls.

    Ugandan Women Show Technology Is Not Just for Men
    Women listen to a Girl Geek seminar on the programming language, Ruby, in Kampala, Uganda, March 28, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

    "I won't say they think girls are stupid, they just think that the hard stuff is for boys because they are stronger. They generally assume because she's weaker physically, maybe mentally she will not cope with the hard stuff," said Ampaire.

    But Ms. Ampaire knows better. Two years ago, she co-founded Girl Geek Kampala, the group teaches women the skills they need to make profitable applications and websites. They also bring in female technology leaders to speak to the students and serve as models of success in business. Ms. Ampaire says one thing Uganda women lack is the belief that they are able to do things.

    "In our class, most of the girls just kept quiet and took the back seat when it came to doing coursework and all these other things. I thought maybe if we had an environment where it's no judgment, it's safe for everyone to say, ‘I want to start from the beginning,' it would be really cool," said Ampaire.

    But Ms. Ampaire also says Uganda women need more than just trust in themselves.
    "I feel the skills are part of that whole process of building confidence. If I can write my whole app by myself, then I'll be more confident to say I'm a girl in tech," said Ampaire.

    Girl Geek's courses are free, they are held in facilities donated by a technology company. Christine Ampaire estimates that they have trained around 150 women so far. Similar programs have been created in Kenya and South Africa. Ms. Ampaire says in years past, she would know everyone of the women at technology events she attended across Africa. Now the computer programmer says she sees more and more new faces.
    "That kind of excites me. I'm like, 'Wow, we are growing.' The gender imbalance is still high, but you can see the difference. The change is happening," said Ampaire.

    Joldeen Mirembe joined Girl Geek as a beginner two years ago. She was not sure that she had the ability to write code. Now, she helps lead the group and teaches classes herself. Ms. Mirembe says Africans are eager for technology.
    "Everyone here is so hungry to get these things and understand them. They just need to be given the opportunity, especially the girls. They can be as good as anyone out there, given the opportunity," she said.
    Ms. Ampaire believes that for Ugandan women to truly succeed in technologies, they need to create openings for themselves. She says no one else is going to do that.

    I'm Jonathan Evans.