Celebrate Solutions: Empowering Aspiring Female Tech Workers in Kenya

By: Joanna Hoffman, Women Deliver

Information Technology, or IT, has dramatically transformed how we communicate, learn and work around the globe. Yet the opportunities arising from this new digital world still face significant social and cultural barriers, particularly gender discrimination. Although half of Africa’s workforce is female, women only make up 15% of workers in the technology field. Through an innovative, multi-faceted approach, the AkiraChix training program in Kenya has aimed to turn this trend around, bringing IT training and job opportunities to 200 women so far.

AkiraChix targets women in Kenya’s poor urban communities, where many residents are deprived of public health services and are less likely to receive proper maternal health care services than those in richer communities. These women are also disadvantaged in their access to education and work opportunities. Throughout the country, approximately 15.8% of women were illiterate in 2010 as compared to 9.4% of men. Female labor force participation has remained below 30%, and the majority of women who are employed are in the education and informal sectors. IT remains a male-dominated field in much of sub-Saharan Africa, and the world.

As job opportunities in IT began to spread throughout Kenya, women took notice. In April 2010, a group of women, including AkiraChix President Judith Owigar, sought out to build a successful workforce of female IT professionals in Kenya. AkiraChix was launched to provide women with networking, mentoring and training services. Participants take IT courses in programming and graphic design, attend events such as “Tech Diva Meet-Ups” to share ideas and discuss potential partnerships, and are mentored by successful female IT professionals.

AkiraChix’s first group of students graduated in August 2011, and more than half have found full-time jobs. Alumni from the training program are now working as developers, graphic designers, IT assistants and sales agents. Overall, 200 women have benefitted from AkiraChix’s programs.

This past August, AkiraChix hosted Kenya’s first-ever all girl hackathon in Nairobi.  Titled GirlApp2012, the event convened girls from different sectors to discuss how new IT developments can improve the lives of girls and women. Participants brainstormed ideas for mobile apps, from health and fitness programs to one providing outreach to women interested in technology trainings.

Thanks to AkiraChix, aspiring female IT professionals have access to the resources they need to make their dreams a reality. Not only will this lead to greater employment opportunities for women in Kenya, but it will also mean a greater number of IT workers developing solutions to improve the lives of girls and women, one click at a time.

Flickr photo via cesarherada.

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