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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres meets African Girls Can Code

13.02.2019  11:32
09 February 2019, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, His Excellency United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, has met 11 young girls from African Girls Can Code Initiative to learn about their experiences and ambitions.

The Secretary-General was joined by the Commissioner of the African Union Commission Department of Social Affairs, Amira Elfadil Mohammed, Head of Development Co-operation & Deputy Head of Mission at Denmark Embassy, Sune Krogstrup, and Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, in his meeting with 11 young girls from the African Girls Can Code Initiative on Saturday.

The girls were excited to meet the Secretary General, as one of them says “It was one in a life time opportunity” and the other describes the event “it brought back the memory of all the good things that happened during the Camp and reminds me that I am very happy that I got to do this”

After having conversation with two of the participants, the Secretary General addresses the girls and representatives of various UN Agencies and dignitaries saying “If more girls and women are not joining these professions, the power relations of the world will remain very male dominated,” also adding that it needs a movement of girls to bring more women into the field of science and technology, including ICT. 

He commended the African Girls Can Code Initiative for involving young girls across the continent and said, “What we are doing here is helping more girls come into ICT. What I have seen today is very impressive.”

African Girls Can Code Initiative (2018-22) is an initiative which seeks to nurture young girls to develop interest in coding and making at early stages of their career choices.

While ICT is believed to have the basis of 90% of future jobs and is key to women’s empowerment and the economic growth of Africa, young girls and women are left out of it. From STEM careers in Sub Saharan Africa, only average of 30% are held by women. Hence teaching girls to code is needed to close the gender gap in tech world and overall gender digital divide.

Emphasising the importance of the initiative, Madam Letty Chiwara, Country Representative of UNWOMEN in Ethiopia, the AU and ECA said “Increasingly our lives are powered by technology, yet women aren’t represented in the roles that create this technology. In many places especially in Africa, there are barriers to simply using technology, let alone being able to code and writes software.  Women and girls are being left behind.” UN Women is therefore implementing the African Girls Can Code Initiative in partnership with ITU and the African Union Commission with the generous support of the government of Denmark.

The Ambassador of Denmark to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the AU, Karin Poulsen underlines: “Closing the digital gender gap will be essential for promoting inclusive economic development and is a key priority in Denmark’s new strategy on promoting digitalisation and tech in our development cooperation. Initiatives such as the African Girls Can Code will seek to promote this important agenda at the highest political level and inspire girls to choose different pathways for their future contributing to the achievement of SDG5 on promotion of gender equality. “The aim of this initiative is to expose and equip young girls with digital literacy, coding, and personal development skills.  This will enable the girls to become more innovative and equip them to participate in the knowledge economy which will form the backbone of future jobs and to advocate for importance of the Gender aspect of ICT and for it to be mainstreamed in the national curricula.

Last year in August 2018 the AGCCI conducted the first coding camp by bringing together 88 participants between the age of 17- 20 from 32 African countries and, today 10 of the participants from Ethiopia and 1 participant from Swaziland are here to share their motivation, achievements and progress. Furthermore, they are here to discuss what it means to them to be part of the coding camp and showcase what they developed after coding camp. During 2018-22 a total of 14 international coding camps will be held across African, involving more than 1000 girls. Besides this, four national camps will be held in Ethiopia with 800 girls. The next regional camp for 50 girls will take place 14- 28 April in South Africa, while three national coding camps in Ethiopia will take place in July and August 2019.

Further reading

UN Women article describing the girl's progress after the coding camp

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