Women in Tech – How Coding Changes Lives
Feb 5, 2021
International Day of Women and Girls in Science highlights the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for science and gender equality. The gender stereotype and exclusion of women in STEM prevents the overall goal of gender equality from being fulfilled. More women represented in science reflects the SDGs and the fact that we are taking steps to reach our goals towards equality. That is why we are honored to share Bridget’s story of how a young African girl found a life-changing opportunity to complete her education and became a woman in coding.
MY LIFE CHANGING STORY.
My name is Bridget and I am a Junior Front-End Developer. My life story is painful yet so inspiring. It is an example of a typical African girl’s story.
I excelled in my early years attending Nyantungo Primary School and St.Adolf High School. I walked 3 kilometers to and from school because my parents could not afford the fees for boarding. Despite the distance, I worked hard and served as a Health Prefect and a Debate Prefect. I had an excellent academic record but was forced to drop out because the school required every student to be in the boarding section. My absence got the attention of the Director of Studies and they requested the school to offer me a half bursary to allow me to return. The request was granted and I returned, but not without some major life changes. I was in a relationship and became pregnant. However, I was not dismissed from school and I continued to study hard. I sat for my exams and passed them, a few months later I gave birth to a baby boy.
I struggled to take care of the baby without the support of his father. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to join University while working on the farm with my parents. I worked during the day and into the night trying to make ends meet. A concerned neighbor who had noticed how hard I worked came to see me one day. Geoffrey Kasangaki, Asante Africa Foundation’s Program Manager for Uganda, told me about an opportunity that supports bright and disadvantaged young girls with good academic records but who are constrained financially. This is how I learned of AkiraChix, an Institute of Technology in Nairobi, Kenya that trains young girls in coding. Geoffrey worked with a former Asante Africa staff member to access the opportunity. I applied and was selected to join the CodeHive Class of 2020 out of thousands of young women.
In February 2020 I left my 7-month-old son with my parents to attend AkiraChix. One month later the Coronavirus pandemic started and AkiraChix transitioned to online learning for the first time. We used WhatsApp groups as a resource and later upgraded to the Zoom platform for online lectures. We were also required to secure an internship, which was a prerequisite for graduating. It was challenging at first because most companies were closed due to the global health pandemic. However, as ladies in tech and trained as problem solvers, we thought of the idea of working online. I became a Front-End Developer intern with The Golazo Project in Uganda, and Technology Homesite in Tanzania. The experience prepared us for hands-on work that we were able to face later in the field. When our graduation day finally came, it was filled with tears of joy. We went through a week of vigorous activities and celebrations that marked the completion of our long journey in coding.
I returned home in December 2020 to see my son well taken care of and starting to talk. I love my son but I would advocate for girls to be sexually educated and learn how to avoid teenage pregnancy. But if a girl conceives a baby while still in school, it should not be the end of her life or career. I want to stand out as an inspiration to young girls who are struggling to seek an education and tell them that their financial background should not be a barrier to their success. Small but sustained steps of opportunities could come to them and change their lives forever. AkiraChix was a life-changing experience and has greatly empowered me. It opened me to a life of great thinking, values, hard work, discipline, and self-evaluation. I want to support everyone to achieve their career dreams and be a role model to them. I want to lead an exemplary life in my community and give back to them in any way possible because I am a product of the community. I want to be an activist for positive social change.
I have many dreams. I want to be an ambassador of commercial farming in my community and use my skills to create modern solutions to help farmers secure an international market for their produce. I want to create a mobile application where farmers can connect, create cooperative groups, gain insights about financial services, and market their goods at the international level. Five years from now, I want to be a Senior Software Engineer working with a global tech company. I also want to create my own tech company one day and create opportunities for many young people like me.
My sincere gratitude goes to my family, my community, AkiraChix, Asante Africa Foundation, and all stakeholders who have helped me to become the empowered and educated woman that I am today.