Friday, November 11, 2011

GHC: Anita Borg Social Impact Award Winner

This year's ABI Social Impact Award winner is Anne Ikiara, from NairoBits.

What If More African Women Had More Access and Use of ICT Skill?

Anne Ikiara started the talk by telling us about her background as an African woman, not unlike others. She was the youngest of ten children - 6 brothers and 3 sisters. Once men are circumcised, they no longer do chores. And these aren't like American chores you give children. Ikiara had to cook. To cook, she first had to go to the forest and get firewood. Then she had to go to the well and pump water. Nothing is simple.

Forty percent of the women do not have access to any education - they aren't even functionally literate. If you cannot read or write, how can you possibly interact with technology? There is so much violence against women that just surviving is their number one task. The only time you can get online is to go to a cyber cafe, usually a long walk, which a woman can only do after she's finished her house work, and sometimes at great peril.

Making matters worse, as soon as a young girl starts to develop breasts, she can be married - as young as eight years old - to a man as old as eighty. How can she get an education then?

Still today, in Africa, women are discouraged by their teachers from pursuing math and science.

Women do 80% of the agricultural work, but only own 5% of the land. Nearly 50% of women in the sub Sahraran Africa are married by the time they turn 18!
Ikiara was lucky and didn't marry until she was 22 and her husband didn't rush her to have children. Her mother, and others, thought there must be something wrong with her, that she needed a doctor, as she hadn't had any children by the age of 26. So much pressure to just be a mother.

A recent contested political election resulted in riots - most of the dead were women.

Women in Africa need more access to education, more role models, more equality!

What has Nairobits done? They target youth from non-formal settlements - very impoverished people. No running water, living 10 people in a 10x10 shack, etc.

Originally this started in Nairobi and was meant to be a one time event - but the interest was so ovewhelming, they needed to do more.

In order to encourage women, they accept much older girls and have flexible times to come for the training. They know these 16 year olds, many of them are mothers, cannot commit to 8AM-5PM for training. Nairobits asks the girls when they cam come for training, and work with that.

This type of training is now being replicated in Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Ethiopia. Nairobits has trained more than 6,000 youths, mostly women, in Kenya alone.

Training starts slow - they may have to introduce the youths to things like indoor plumbing. What a different world. Can you imagine?

Continuing this is difficult, as donor funding is down, and there is an overwhelming need for services. So many students have to be turned away.

Nairobits has centers where the students can come and use their skills after their graduation and get access at times convenient for them.

I had to ask Ikiara how she got out of this poverty: her brother. One of her brothers recognized that she was smarter than he was, and was able to get her into boarding school where she had six years to learn in peace, with no house work. She has taken this gift, and is passing it on to others. The women she trains in technology, they, too, tell others.

The women who are trained can then get real jobs and increase the financial well being of their entire family, so parents, in the end, are usually very happy to have an educated daughter.

The most limiting thing for Nairobits is money. They need sponsors, they need funds. To put one student through six months of training - it merely costs 10,000 Kenyan Shillings - $107 USD.

This post syndicated from Thoughts on security, beer, theater and biking!