In Nigeria and some other developing nations, ICT is seen as an exclusive reserve for the men folk.
This accounts for the low pursuit of career in ICT and it’s related fields by Girls and women, even in this era of globalization and technology explosion when young people are breaking all manner of barriers using technology.
But the trend appears to set the change in Nigeria as the Chief Executive Officer of IBI Foundation, Ibrahim Babaina, has promised to change the status quo with the support and collaboration of relevant stakeholders.
Babaina said his Foundation partnered with 20 states across the federation this year to inspire and motivate Nigerian girls and young ladies to pick careers in ICT.
He made this known at the 2921 commemoration of International Day for Girls in ICT held in Abuja recently.
The Girls-In-ICT is an initiative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
It is a global effort to raise awareness on empowering and encouraging girls and young women to consider studies and careers in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
According to Babaina, the Foundation is targeting young girls, especially girls out of school and those in IDP camps in some states in the North East, having realised that they don’t have opportunities, especially out of school girls and girls in IDPs.
His words: “We are trying to partner with other states across the nation to have it in 20 states. Today 14 states will be having it, the other 6 states will be having theirs later in the month because of logistics.
“The event is about inspiring and motivating girls and young ladies to pick careers in ICT. We have seen that girls don’t have opportunities, especially out of school girls and girls in IDPs. That is why we are targeting girls out of school and IDP camps in some states in the NE.
“We have three schools in attendance: Olumawu Schol, Lightware Academuly and Great Height school. They have been part of this programme for the past four years at this IBI Centre. We started having this programme here in IBI centre since 2016.
We could not have it in 2020 because of COVID 19.” Going forward, the IBI CEO said the focus for now would be to spur the imagination of curiosity in these girls so that they can begin to make career choices in ICT.
“We want them to see ICT as fun and something interesting they can pick up, because when you here about ICT, what you hear scares you, we want to show these girls that are going to start taking science courses in school that science can be fun and it can be interesting.
“If girls see it these way, they begin to pick courses in science, because the future we are heading to will need more of coding and machine learning, robotics, artificial intelligence.”
On the prospects, he said, “there is going to be a feedback mechanism in place. We send questionnaires and feedback forms to the schools to find out from the previous girls who were part of this event, how they felt and how it has impacted their lives.
“And we have testimonies from girls who had attended the event in the past, who have actually picked up career in ICT related fields.
“That is why we had to expand it this year because we gave noticed that what we have been doing since 29q6 to 2019 is working. That is why we felt other states should share from what we are doing.”
Speaking on the challenges facing the execution of the plan, Babaina said, “COVID is a big challenge because we can’t gather girls. We used to gather 200 girls in FCT but now we could only gather 40 because of COVID protocols.”
Another challenge he pointed out is shortage of partners.”We need right partners, it is not about money but about passion of the girls.
These girls are the future of this nation. So far, NITDA and NCC had responded to their letters but need more partners to make it programme succeed, especially partners from the ICT sector.”
One of the resource persons and the CEO of Hi-Tech Centre for Nigeria Women and Youth, Dr. Wunmi Hassan, while speaking on the topic Women in ICT, told the girls to learn how to think out of the box, be bold, confident and courageous and know that the space is not just for men or boys, but for all.
She charged them to take advantage of the learning to open their minds and explore because the tech space is not just about software and hardware, but about production and about moving technology in a way it can benefit them and their communities.
“They should look into the future and see space where they can manifest their potentials.”As much as we know that parents have a place to play, is about the girls having fundamental space, they know what they want and can push out.
“You need to show what you can do, many times when people say I can do it and of course the society will try to pull you down, you need to prove that you can do it.
“So, do it and people will see that you can do it and people will come around to support you.”
For her, girls and women everywhere should have the support of government to be able to overcome cultural and societal barriers and learn.
According to her, “many of the things that happen from homes show that women should not even go to school but these are stereotypes that can be taken care of through legislation.
“A lot had been done already but we need more advocacy for fathers and mothers to know that their limits is that starting point of their children.”
One of the benefiting students, Sharon Bako, an SS3 student of Lightware Academy, Abuja expressed delight at the level of exposure she gained from the event.
“My experience here was quite fun, all the speakers here were really entertaining and motivational and inspiring.
They thought me to believe in myself and that I can achieve anything if i set my eyes on it.
“I like the presentation on film making and shots, that is where I am going to build and achieve my career on when I finish my graduation.”
Another student from Lightware Academy, Abuja, Ruhama Damina, said, “I feel very grateful, it has inspired me to do more. They made realise that I can make a difference.
I feel passionate about taking care of animals. With the technology, feeling we can make a difference.”
In her remarks, one of the participants and founder of TAM Foundation, Wusena Babaina from Adamawa State described the event as an eye opener into the unknown world of ICT.
“It has been wonderful and educative. There are certain things you think they are behind you but when they break it down, you see that it is not something impossible to achieve. What I am taking home is that whatever you put tour mind on you achieve.
“I have learnt that ICT is not only for men, women can even do better.” Since 2011, the International Girls in ICT Day has been celebrated in 160 countries around the world with more than 7,200 events and participation of over 240,000 girls and young women.
From its inception in 2016, IBI Foundation’s has held this event and has raised the participation from 120 to 250 girls in attendance for the last edition of the event.