In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child (IDG), Vodacom Tanzania (Plc) continued to demonstrate its commitment towards addressing challenges facing a girl child in Tanzania by addressing one of the key challenges, which is education as identified by the UN.
Vodacom Tanzania (Plc) through its ‘Code Like a Girl’ program has so far benefited a total of 1,444 young girls since its inception in 2018. This further cements that Vodacom is more than a network, as it continues to demonstrate that it is indeed a purpose-led tech company.
Going with this year’s theme for IDG, which is “Our time is now – Our rights, our future”, Vodacom Tanzania (Plc) is of the view that, the time is now to start bridging the gender gap in education by empowering young girls to take on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) courses at tertiary education stages by giving them a platform to nurture the talents from a young age.
Giving an account of her experience as one of the beneficiaries of Vodacom’s Code Like a Girl program, Miriam Msamba, a trainee of the 2021 cohort said, “growing up as a child, I always wanted to pursue ICT, however, we cannot always be what we want, and life sometimes chooses a different path for us. Through Code Like A Girl training I received from Vodacom Tanzania in Partnership with Tanzania Data Lab (dLab), I am now able to pursue my ICT career.”
Msamba completed her secondary education in 2021, but alas, the government assigned her to Bagamoyo School of Nursing where she is currently in her first year, pursuing nursing and midwifery.
“Before joining the college, I heard about the Code Like A Girl training from my teachers at Kawe Ukwamani Secondary School. I immediately applied and got admission. From the training I learned about coding, and designing a website among other things that introduced me to what I was planning to pursue career-wise,” she said.
She notes that while she was allotted into nursing and midwifery, she has been able to create her own website on issues related to fashion known as “Miraculous Clothes Design” which trains the public on what to wear for different occasions.
“My website is ready but not yet online because I am still trying to raise money for its domain fee for it to be online. In a nutshell, I am still doing what I love as I pursue another career path,” she says.
Another beneficiary of Code Like A Girl program, Tibebuka Kirondera said through the training she is now able to use different texts, languages, and editors that have helped her create a website.
In 2018, Vodacom entered into a collaboration with dLab and introduced the #Codelikeagirl program. The program aims to develop coding and life skills for girls aged 14-18 and encourage them to consider taking up ICT and STEM subjects.
Coding is a way of solving problems, sequential thinking and simulating, creating and designing. The training is designed to give girls an interest in a sector that is currently more popular with boys. In partnership with dLab, Vodacom Tanzania delivers a training program covering basic knowledge of
C2 General various computer languages and development programs. The learning facilitates an interactive and engaging way that integrates life skills while developing code – enabling learners to develop their own website.
This is because the number of male and female students who enroll in science and technology subjects in school are at par however, two in three girls will drop these subjects and will not pursue them beyond secondary education. This leads to a gender imbalance when it comes to employment and business in the IT sector.
As part of its purpose pillars, Vodacom Tanzania has always had empowering women and young girls through technology as an important area of focus for its business development goals.
Therefore, Vodacom Tanzania has embarked on leveraging its technological expertise and resources to achieve this goal. Education, specifically in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), was immediately identified as a key area for action to empower women and young girls to become more competitive in the business and employment markets.
Gender disparity between men and women in STEM careers is alarming worldwide and yet research shows that these are the jobs of the future in driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth, and sustainable development.
Therefore, dLab, Co-Founder, Mahadia Tunga said they started in 2016 as a project and later registered as an independent NGO by the University of Dar es Salaam. Its aim is to ensure data is frequently and effectively used for decision making at all levels.
She explains that during the first year of executing its activities they realized there was a gender gap in STEM subjects, which by then was less by 20 percent female participation. “We brainstormed on what to do to be able to bridge the gender gap. Noting that, in 2017 they established women in data program.
“The aim was to engage more women in data however by the end of 2018; we realized that a majority coming to the program were girls from elite families who were already IT savvy. To address this, we then assigned representatives in low income areas to identify girls from low-income families whom we would then extend learning opportunities to,” she said.
She explains that the partnership with Vodacom is as a sponsor as well as a provider of the curriculum for the program adopted from Vodafone. She notes that since Code Like A Girl started in July 2018 they have so far trained more than 1400 girls in Mwanza, Arusha, Dodoma and Dar es Salaam.
Meanwhile, Vodacom Tanzania, Human Resource Director, Vivienne Penessis said they were extremely excited because they have been able to train more than 1,444 girls under the program and recently they have partnered with Vodacom Digital Accelerator (VDA) which gives them the opportunity to continuously engage the alumni.
“Through our partnership with VDA, THE alumnI from the Code Like A Girl program will be paired with the VDA startups and witness first-hand how these young founders are using technology to solve social problems.”
According to Vivienne, Code Like A Girl is one of those programs they are extremely proud of at Vodacom because it touches the lives of Tanzanian girls and they look forward to continuing educating the communities by expanding to other regions in the country.