SDG 5: Gender Equality
Africa’s progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment is notable but gender inequality persists. Empowering girls is essential to achieving gender equality in Africa. Due to stereotypes and cultural barriers, girls are frequently prevented from achieving their full potential, starting at a very young age. All girls should have equal opportunities to access education, to pursue careers in fields of their choosing and to be compensated fairly and equally for the work they do.
In Africa, girls face barriers to accessing primary, secondary and tertiary education. Around 18 million African girls are out of school, 4 million more than their male counterparts. And the gap between men and women accessing tertiary education actually widened between 2000 and 2015, with fewer African women enrolling in universities and colleges than men.1
Gender equality is also important for women: it has been shown that when women enjoy greater equality, their family members also benefit, including children. For instance, higher education levels among women are linked to improved health and development outcomes for children.21. AFIDEP, (2017). Africa’s progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment is notable but gender inequality persists.
When Ernestina founded the Ghana Code Club, she wanted to fill a gap in the education system in Ghana. The Ghana curriculum was not designed with coding literacy in mind, with students being trained as users rather than creators of digital technology. The curriculum centers around basic computer competency such as document, spreadsheet and slide show creation and internet research.1 As a result, school graduates often have only basic digital literacy and few have program development skills in an increasingly digital job market.
For Ghanaian girls, the problem is even more acute. A study conducted in central Ghana, found that girls were less inclined to pursue computer science or ICT as a career path. The study notes that the absence of computer science as a subject in primary and secondary school may be a factor in girls aversion to study computer science in post-secondary.2
As a solution to this problem, the Ghana Code Club, runs engaging extra-curricular programs for girls and boys aged 9-18 that sparks their interest in coding by teaching them to make their own games, animations and websites. The Ghana Code Club also trains teachers to teach coding to children and approaches its work through a gendered lens, taking steps to encourage girls to pursue coding and setting targets to ensure that girls have equal opportunities to discover the joys of coding and pursue careers in technology.
In 2016, Ernestina won the Tigo Digital Changemakers Competition, an innovation competition run by Tigo Ghana (now AirtelTigo), it’s parent company Millicom, and Reach for Change. Ernestina received GHS 30,000 and a spot in the Reach for Change incubator to develop her social enterprise. The award Ernestina received gave her the funding and support she needed to scale Ghana Code Club’s operations from 5 to 42 schools and enabled her to impact 2029 children’s lives in 2017.
Ernestina was also supported to set up a business model that includes an adaptable revenue plan to allow the Ghana Code Club to move from a startup dependent on grants to a financially sustainable organization. She explains:
“The training I received in business modelling has helped me to design Saturday coding classes that generate proceeds needed to expand into more and more schools to either conduct teacher training sessions or initiate code clubs.”
Ernestina adds that she also sells t-shirts and coding manuals in the community that are aimed to generate revenues to help Ghana Code Club achieve self-sustainability.
In line with its goal to get more girls into computer science and ICT as careers, Ghana Code Club became a member of the #eSkills4Girls Africa Network in 2017, which is working to close the digital gender gap in developing countries. The Ghana Code Club set a target of training and monitoring 100 girls per year and will support them to develop a digital innovation of their own and provide them with the opportunity to compete globally with other girls.
Ernestina says the credibility she gained when she became a Change Leader in the Reach for Change incubator was invaluable.
"Reach For Change's support and dedication aided me to win a contract award with a Government Agency to train 50 Center Managers from 50 different CIC centers in the Ashanti Region." she says. “This means 1500 children including girls will benefit every year from our lesson plans."1. Republic of Ghana, Ministry of Education (2010). Teaching Syllabus for Information and Communications Technology.
When 12-year-old Davida first came to the Ghana Code club, she was quiet and shy, and lacked the confidence to try new things. After a short time attending the club, Davida began to discover that she possessed a passion, and talent, for coding, which surprised the girl who struggled with low self-esteem.
During a Hackathon in February 2017, Davida and a team made up of classmates from her school created an app called PIANO which can be played by anyone online. To her surprise and delight, her team came in first place and won the overall prize.
“I was really surprised that my school team made it to the finals and even took the highest prize,” Davida says, explaining that her school is deprived and lacks many facilities that other students take for granted. She adds that she never expected to win when she saw that her school was up against popular and private schools, attended by children from wealthy families.
Winning the hackathon marked a milestone in Davida’s life: at that moment, she realised that computer science education could be an exciting and promising career path.
Davida has now built up her confidence to become a leader among her peers. She actively participates in open forum discussions in her school and in her community and was named the top student in a class of 95 in the 2017 academic year - a complete transformation from the shy girl who joined the Ghana Clode Club in 2016.
To top it all off, Davida got the chance to be among three other smart girls in Ghana to showcase a programming project to the president of Ghana and more than 800 dignitaries from all over the world, who gathered for the 2017 African Open Data Conference Day.
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