Rural Kenya: Young Women's Determination to Equip Girls with Digital Skills #BalanceForBetter

Gladys Muthara
Posted March 15, 2019 from Kenya
Digital Skills Training by TAP Africa
This is our Basic IT Skills training session going on in a community day secondary school, in Kirinyaga, rural Kenya. The school is mixed, with both girls and boys. Both joined our class, because each child here is interacting with a computer for the very first time in their life. Our Computer skills training is a rare opportunity, that many of their peers many never be able to access, unless through a Free program such as this. Graduates of this program will go on to join our Digital centre for advanced tech and non-tech skills that will enable them to become gainfully employed or start own ventures, after secondary school. Further, each one of them will peer train other young people in the village on Basic Digital Skills. Our annual target: 500 trained directly; 2500 peer-trained.
Digital Skills training by TAP Africa
Digital Skills training by TAP Africa (1/1)

Today’s world is not only a global village, but also very-fast paced, thanks to technology, which keeps on changing every day. Those who are not able to use even a slice of technology are left miles behind, almost in pits of darkness, with limited access to information, opportunities for education, jobs,  and skills development. Countless stories are told of how technology; computers, mobile phones, and the internet have become great enablers and catalysts for development, for instance by amplifying people’s voices to hold their governments accountable, communicating some of the pressing challenges they face, as well as accessing opportunities for economic empowerment. Despite the many benefits of technology, women and girls, particularly in rural areas, have limited access to technology, resulting in a growing gender digital divide.

Statistics show that 1.7 billion women do not have access to mobile phones; similarly, many have been left behind in using the internet. Women and girls in Kenya’s rural areas are no different.

I grew up in in a tiny village in rural Kenya, a place that did not know much technology save for radio and TV, none of which we had. I encountered a computer for the very first time at 18, when I moved to the Capital City, in search of a computer college. My sister enrolled me in an informal college to learn basic computer skills. She paid $60 for it. By the time I completed the  course after 3 months, I did not know how to type or even search my name on the web!

My story is no different from that of thousands of girls in Kenya’s rural areas, today. While my country has made lots of advancement in technology, particularly mobile phone penetration at over 89% and internet penetration at over 90%, young women and girls have been left far behind in acquiring digital skills that would enable them to meaningfully use technology to access opportunities that can unlock their economic possibilities. Save for a dummy mobile phone, often used by their mothers to communicate and receive money through mobile money transfer services, M-PESA, most girls in secondary schools have never touched and switched on a computer or smartphone. In our research, only 3 out of 15 know what is the internet. Equally, it is extremely rare to find a girl who knows how to navigate the web.  In a school with 400 girls, only a handful can claim to have ever interacted with a computer, many do not know what are emails, much less to type anything on a word document. The situation is worse because, in reality, most teachers are equally computer/digital illiterate.

In 2018, after conducting a digital skills needs assessment among girls in Kirinyaga county, Gladys Muthara, Fridah Ndoro, Susan Waruingi, Esther Mugachia, and Wanjiku Karanja embarked on a journey of skilling young people, especially girls in rural day secondary schools, with digital skills. The project dubbed “Digital Literacy for Employability and Entrepreneurship” was designed to offer Basic Digital Skills to in-school girls, Advanced Tech-skills for those interested in progressing and acquiring specialized tech skills that could lead to employment or starting own ventures, as well as the 1 Computer-1 Neighborhood activities,  which entail girls training their peers on digital skills, in a village neighborhood setting. The demanding work entails trekking and motorbike rides on dusty, sometimes muddy roads, deep into the rural areas where some of the schools are located.

It is an inspiring journey, often characterized by tears of joy and disbelief, when we see the girls learning, slowly but surely, from the very first day, when they practise how to type their names on a computer in order to gain confidence, to the last day, when they graduate after completing the full course package that entails; introduction to computers, MS- Office, and the Internet. Truly, I have never seen girls as excited and eager to learn as in this initiative!

However, many a times, the joy is only short lived, because we, often, have to turn off children who are so eager to learn, because we cannot accommodate more than 20 in a semester! Our current students to computer ratio, is 4:1 laptop. Some give up along the way and drop out of the class, because they are not able to spend enough time with a computer. All 400 students in one school are interacting with computers for the very first time in their lives! To them, this is an incredibly rare opportunity, and they count themselves very lucky to be able to learn Basic Digital Skills for free. Their parents, who mainly live on less than a $1 a day, may never be able to afford paying for the informal cyber-cafes’ computer packages training.

My colleagues and I, are, however, not giving up. With just 5 laptops and computers coupled with our mobile phones, we are staying put and doing our little thing....helping girls gain skills to access limitless opportunities for education and economic empowerment, while amplifying their voices! While at it, we are appealing to all well wishers, to led a hand by donating a new or used laptop...and that will transform the lives of many!

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” Mother Teresa

Story by: Gladys Muthara, Kenya

Founder: TAP Africa

(www.tapafrica-1.org)

A Champion for Girls’ Education and a Youth Economic Empowerment Specialist

Change starts with a story.
This story was submitted in response to Change Starts With a Story.

Comments 21

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Jill Langhus
Mar 15
Mar 15

Wow, Gladys! What an inspiring story. I had no idea what challenges you encountered and the stats. What you're doing is so important and impactful. You're definitely creating a brighter future for these girls. Even if you aren't able to help all of them... yet... you're getting them to see, and be aware of, all the possibilities out there. Great job!

Gladys Muthara
Mar 16
Mar 16

Very true Jill.
And I'm so glad we have you as a sister to cheer us on. Inch by inch, we shall help them to see and access that world of limitless possibilities, by accessing information, and opportunities for education and economic empowerment.

Thank you.

Jill Langhus
Mar 16
Mar 16

I'm glad to be here for you:-)

Amen!

You're very welcome.

Gladys Muthara
Mar 20
Mar 20

Thank you, Jill

Jill Langhus
Mar 21
Mar 21

You're welcome, lovely:-)

Hello, Gladys,

I’m proud of you and your team for conducting digital trainings to children in your community. You are definitely changing lifes by giving them digital technology know-how.

Kudos to you and your team for taking action. I hope you get more funding for all that you need so you can invite more students to train.

Thank you for sharing!

Gladys Muthara
Mar 16
Mar 16

Thank you Karen for your kind words.
Inch by inch, we shall keep doing it, to help them unlock opportunities for education and economic empowerment.

Yes, we surely hope to gain more support, especially computers/laptops to enable us reach more of them.

Thanks sister.

Lilfairtrade Shop
Mar 16
Mar 16

Hello Gladys,

Assalaam Alaikum peace and blessings,

YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION!

Congratulations on your dedication to establish IT and digital skills to students in rural Kenya.

I would highly recommend you contact Servane Mouazan at Ogunte, London, UK for more support and advice.

Also have a look a the following links,

Apologies in advance if you have previously contacted these organisations.

Best wishes
Love peace and blessings
Sabeena

http://one.laptop.org/about/mission

https://www.computeraid.org/about-us

http://thefemaleorator.com/7-organisations-that-give-small-grants-to-wom...

Gladys Muthara
Mar 20
Mar 20

Dear Sister,

Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I have checked the links you shared and they are very helpful. I will be reaching out to the organizations above, including computeraid in Kenya.

Lots of love and blessings for holding my hand by sharing these links.

Blessings

Obisakin Busayo
Mar 17
Mar 17

Good job my Sister, Well done! You are doing a great job in the lives of those girls and the community.n Kudos to you!!

Gladys Muthara
Mar 20
Mar 20

Hello Busayo,

Your work is very inspiring too. Be sure young women like myself are walking in your footsteps.

Lots of love and blessings.

Thanks

Beth Lacey
Mar 17
Mar 17

Your work is so very important. Good luck!

Gladys Muthara
Mar 20
Mar 20

Thank you so much Beth.

Blessings to you.

Bettina Amendi
Mar 18
Mar 18

Good Job Gladys,i am happy for you.Keep up the good job,nice pictures that took me back to school.

Sis. Salifu
Mar 19
Mar 19

Off course we can all do the little things that we can. A step at a time. Its an amazing project you are accomplishing. Thanks for sharing.

Gladys Muthara
Mar 20
Mar 20

Thank you Sis. Yes, a step at a time.

Blessings in your journey.

ELIZABETH ZIRO
Apr 13
Apr 13

This is great and encouraging. Keep doing your thing.

Gladys Muthara
May 10
May 10

Thank you Elizabeth. I wish you the very best in your journey too.

May 11
May 11
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Gladys Muthara
May 14
May 14

Hello sister,

I sent you an email today. Please check.

Thanks,

Gladys

ELIZABETH ZIRO
May 17
May 17

Hi there! I will do and hit back dear. Best wishes