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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Code like a girl| Vodacom gets 700 South African girls coding to narrow the gender digital divide at an early age

VODACOM has launched a follow-up to its stimulating #CodeLikeAGirl programme that will see 700 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 receive coding training from 27 June – 15 July 2022.

The Vodacom #CodeLikeAGirl programme is aimed at inspiring more girls to explore careers that require coding skills to help them get a start in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and industries.

Often referred to as the jobs of the future, STEM drives innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth, and sustainable development the world over.

Female participation is lagging in STEM fields in most countries. A report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), titled “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM” indicated only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally are women. Young women also comprise only 25% of students in engineering or information and communication technology (ICT).

Njabulo Mashigo, HR director for Vodacom South Africa, says: “Gender norms, culture and stereotypes are still shaping girls’ choices about their studies and their eventual careers, which is why so few consider STEM and ICT careers. We need to create more opportunities for girls and young women to build confidence in STEM, by empowering them through education and coding skills, so they can become the engineers and innovators of the future. Our vision is to address the underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM education and careers. Through this initiative, we are looking to improve on these numbers, and empower even more women to explore STEM careers.”

Coding is the process of transforming ideas, solutions, and instructions into a language that the computer can understand, using programming languages like Javascript, Java, C/C++, or Python, to act as the translator between humans and machines.

The “Code like a Girl” programme aims to develop not only coding skills but also valuable life skills for girls aged between 14-18 years and encourages them to consider careers in ICT and STEM. It provides authoritative mentors for the girls to inspire them to be passionate about technology and its possibilities.

During the week-long training course, pupils will be exposed to knowledge of computer languages, robotics and development programmes including HTML, CSS, GitHub and Version control, Bootstrap and JavaScript, Basic Computer and Introduction to Coding. They will also be taken on a fun and empowering life skills journey while developing coding, presentation, and communication skills.

At the end of the week, each girl will know how to develop her own website and present her work to the rest of the coding class. The programme was first implemented in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, DRC and Lesotho in 2017. In SA alone, since the programme was launched, Vodacom has trained 2 332 girls. It had its biggest intake in 2021, with over 1 000 pupils from eight provinces taking part. Vodacom aims to train1 500 girls from across all nine provinces in the current financial year. This investment by Vodacom in digital skills training programmes for young women will help to narrow the gender digital divide at an early age in South Africa.

Mashigo says: “Projects such as Vodacom’s #CodeLikeAGirl have the potential to significantly close the gender gap and inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers in the digital era towards which we are transitioning. I believe that we can ultimately change the outlook of the number of women in STEM careers, helping them to shape the future.” 

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