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#CodeLikeAGirl success shows demand for STEM learning for young African girls

The Vodacom #CodeLikeAGirl initiative is growing in popularity and is starting to inspire more young girls to enter the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. While this year’s instalment of the #CodeLikeAGirl programme only had space for 600 young girls, the programme was oversubscribed by 40%, with more than 1,000 young girls registering to take part. To cater for this huge demand, plans are underway to run another edition before the end of this year.

For the first time, the local programme attracted young girls from countries outside of South Africa. The initiative attracted 25 girls from six other countries including Botswana, Albania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho and Mozambique.

Launched in 2017 with the aim of closing the gender gap and inspiring young girls to pursue STEM careers, the programme has been implemented in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, DRC and Lesotho. In SA alone, since the programme was launched, we have trained 1 332 girls. Vodacom has covered close to 100 schools locally.

Njabulo Mashigo, Human Resources Director for Vodacom South Africa says: “The level of interest that we saw during this year tells us that, our programme is making good progress in popularising coding among young girls and that there is a huge interest out there from young girls to explore careers that require coding skills to help them get a start in STEM fields.”

Female participation is lagging in a field that is expanding globally and men continue to dominate the number of STEM graduates in most countries. Around the world, just 35% of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students within higher education are women. To reduce this deficit and increase female participation within STEM fields and industries, Vodacom’s #CodeLikeAGirl programme aims to develop coding skills and valuable life skills for girls.

Earlier this month, from 4-7 October, Vodacom ran the most recent session of their #CodeLikeAGirl programme, virtually inviting 600 young girls from across South Africa to learn how to code and further their STEM knowledge during the 2021 Spring school holidays.

During the week-long training course, young learners were exposed to an Introduction to coding, robotics and development programmes including HTML, CSS, GitHub and Version control, and JavaScript. They were also taken on a fun and empowering life skills journey while developing coding, presentation and communication skills – providing these learners with a well-rounded programme of development.

“These initiatives 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 females in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers, enabling those women to become pioneers within the technology space in a few years to come,” concludes Mashigo.

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