Posted by Djam Bakhshandegi
Corporate Citizenship and Partners in Learning West East Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
Empowering women through education and technology is essential to the economic development of any country. In Africa, the gap between the educated population and the one that has never had the opportunity to go to school is even bigger than in other parts of the world; a difference that is exacerbated when we look at the statistics solely for the female population. Moreover, access to technology in Africa has been limited to the rich for years – a trend that is now starting to change.
When it comes to education in Africa, there is still much room for improvement. According to the United Nations, it is estimated that more than 40 per cent of women in Africa do not have access to basic education. However, the encouragement of African women to chase education in the technology sector has increased in the last years and is opening greater possibilities of bridging the gap between those who have access to opportunities and those who don’t.
Considering technology as an important factor for the achievement of growth in Africa, there is a general awareness in the continent that women need to be educated in this field. In this sense, the UNESCO report Science, Technology and Gender identifies that the number of women employed in the scientific and tech industries is increasing in several African countries.
Numerous organisations and foundations are starting new initiatives in Africa with the aim of improving life for women, and contributing to the development of the continent through technology and science. Microsoft is supporting this through its DigiGirlz programme, which is designed to give high-school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. Every year, the DigiGirlz programme reaches over 500 young high-school girls across the continent. Often, these sessions signal new opportunities awakening in the young women’s minds. They are able to see, hear, and understand what education and technology has brought to others and what it can potentially bring to them. And, we also recently launched Aspire Women, the official name of the female empowerment portal first disclosed as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative launch in February 2013. It is an official collaboration between Microsoft Egypt, the 4Afrika Initiative and YouthSpark and is designed to empower young women to play a leadership role in their communities, build their skills and self-esteem, and introduce new models for self-employment.