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The session organised by Graduate Women International (GWI), explored the role of ICTs in promoting and accelerating access to education for girls and women. Ms Isabelle Collet (University of Geneva) presented her research on ICT education for women, by comparing the trends in Malaysia and Western countries. According to her research, more women are studying ICT in Malaysia than men, as opposed to Western countries. In the past, boys were the first to be equipped with technical devices and were encouraged to study.
Collet mentioned that the reason why boys were oriented towards technology was not because girls were less interested in ICT compared to boys, but rather to the gender gap. Currently, about 40 % of the female in Malaysia study ICT-related subjects, while the rate of male studying ICT has dropped. Collet concluded that ICT education should be equally accessible for both women and men, in order to open doors to diversity.
Mr Paul William Delorme (Partnership and Business Development Director, Orange Device Group) presented the Girls’ Choices Mobile App e-learning application, currently being developed in Rwanda, in partnership with Graduate Women International. The aim of the initiative is to provide accessible information to teenage girls on life choices. The application is designed for girls between 14 and 18, and empowers them to explore possibilities beyond school, including education and employment possibilities that match their skills and interests. The mobile app is in development stage, and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Education, Youth and ICT in Rwanda.
Ms Daniele Castle (Executive Director of Graduate Women International) highlighted the progress made by China, Sweden, and the UK in promoting ICT education in schools, at primary and secondary level.
Ms Rovani Sigamoney (Assistant Programme Specialist at UNESCO) presented statistics on the role that women play in engineering and computer science. According to research conducted by UNESCO, women are consistently underrepresented in engineering: the percentage of women graduates in Europe is very low, while the percentage in Arab states and in Asia has increased to 35% in average. In the field of computer science, there has been a steady decrease in the number of female graduates since 2000. In order to involve more women in ICT, UNESCO has established a partnership with L’Oreal to grant international fellowships for women to continue their studies. UNESCO Youth Mobile Initiative, launched in 2014, aims to introduce young people to computing science programming (learning-to-code) and problem solving (coding-to-learn). The initiative is intended to provide 25,000 young people with the skills and knowledge needed to develop applications that could contribute to promoting sustainable development in their communities.
The role played by parents in encouraging girls to study ICT was also discussed. The example of Switzerland was given, where parents seem not to be very confident that girls will play a significant role in ICT. During the discussions, a suggestion was made for civil society organisations to get more engaged in activities aimed to convince parents that girls could have successful careers in ICT.
Sigamoney then spoke about Africa Engineering Week, an initiative held every year in an African country, and is intended to promote engineering as a career choice, including for girls and women. As the usage mobile phones and the Internet is increasing, there are even more ICT-related job opportunities. By promoting ICT education and investment in Africa, the possibilities for girls to find employment in this field are increasing.
by Aye Mya Nyein