Empowering Young Women Entrepreneurs in Africa through ICTs

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    Submitted by Stacy Dry Lara, Executive Director of GWI 

    Empowering Young Women Entrepreneurs in Africa through ICTs:
    Mobile App Solutions for Sustainable Development and the Changing World of Work

    Commission on the Status of Women 61st session side event.
    Monday, 13 March, 3-4:15

    This side event was full of energy! The session ran over about 45 minutes and most every attendee stayed for the duration because we could not hear enough from these fascinating, young, entrepreneurs. The side event focused on highlighting best practices in the framework of UNESCO’s YouthMobile initiative in preparing young women in Africa for the changing world of work.

    Opening remarks were made by UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova who acknowledged and encouraged future work of these young panelists and all girls. His Excellency Mister Fodé Seck Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations enthusiastically attended the entire session. The Ambassador underscored the active participation of the Senegalese government in the gender equality efforts.

    The side event was moderated excellently by Sasha Rubel Diamanka, Regional Communication and Information Advisor for UNESCO, West Africa.

    Concept: The next one billion new internet connections will be made from mobile devices in the hands of young people in developing countries; mobile technology has become a medium for youth empowerment, activism and an engine for change. BUT, in developing countries up to 43% fewer women have access to internet than men. Smartphone ownership and locally relevant applications can be key to women’s empowerment, increase inclusion and build immeasurable confidence.

    A few side event and presenter highlights:

    UNESCO’s YouthMobile initiative aims to provide young girls with basic technical skills and the confidence to develop, promote and sell locally relevant mobile applications.

    Bitilokho Ndiaye – Technical Advisor on Gender, ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal. She is committed to gender mainstreaming in the governance of the ICT sector which enables her to contribute to the distinction if the Ministry of Posts and telecommunications by the ITU and UN Women through the GEM Tech Awards.

    Rokhaya Solange Ndir – created the I Consume Made in Senegal initiative that aims to promote consuming local Senegalese products.

    Joanna Bersin – from “I am the CODE” that focuses on empowering girls and women with technology and operates with the mission to build a generation of female digital leaders by training one million girls and women coders by 2030. I am the Code is the first African-led global movement to mobilise government, private sector, and investors to advance STEAMED (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship, and Design) Education.

    Ndéye Aida Gueye – twice winner (2014 and 2016) of the Jiggen Ci TIC contest, organized by the Ministry of Telecommunications of Senegal as part of a project. She underlined that studying ICTs and entrepreneurship enabled her to discover other job sectors such as health and education.

    Aida Monsour Lo studied fashion and told how the creativity and innovation she found in fashion design she also finds in the development of mobile apps and that code in a language she can use to express herself and give others the power to act. She and her friends have developed a mobile app called SIGESTES, which seeks to promote good land management in Senegal. She says this is her way of bringing added value to her homeland.

    Martha Chumo is a young entrepreneur from Kenya who provides low-cost classes to Kenyan students from the slum areas on the development of mobile apps. For her outstanding work and achievements, UNESCO’s Knowledge Society Division has provided Martha assistance to upgrade her training materials and engaged her as a trainer for workshops in South Sudan. She is the founder of DevSchool that creates employment for African youth and creates solutions in varying fields. She has been featured on CNN as a young, female leader.

    Seynabou Thiam studied has a degree in medical biology from Senegal. She later moved to France then four years ago felt the need to return to her home county to participate in its development by offering her experience and what she learned abroad. This is when she returned to her first passion of ICTs and all things digital. She spoke about co-founding the first digital platform for mothers in Senegal to exchange information and support.

    To conclude Ambassador Fode Seck said that with pleasure he listened to these young digital entrepreneurs as a source of inspiration for Senegal and Kenya. He reaffirmed the “Yes We Can initiative importance and his continuous commitment to strengthen his partnership with UNESCO within the framework of the YouthMobile project. He acknowledged that, through technology, these young entrepreneurial women are role models for the African continent.

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