Some days ago I invited potential mentors to come for an informative session and registration for Technovation Challenge Bamenda 2018 session. After running this program for 3 years as regional Ambassador and I noticed that women are still overpowered with fear of learning and exploring new technologies.
During the event, these young women kept on asking me similar questions that revealed great fear to embrace the application of technology. After the launching event, I had a heavy burden in my heart. How was I going to break the walls of fear in the newly recruited mentors?
Despite the fact that I shared my personal story on how I overcame this same challenge which they are also facing, the young women looking very smart still lacked self-confidence and assertiveness. Notwithstanding the fact that they listened to a testimony and success story of a student who participated last 2 years, some ladies were still skeptic, shy and reluctant to get engaged.
They were unable to see themselves overcoming that situation, they were assuming that it was best for some other powerful women not them. I remember one of the questions a lady asked me” Madame how do I mentor a girl when I don’t believe in myself? We need some men to do this kind of task”.
This young woman thought that she was in the wrong place.
With tears almost rolling down my eyes, I told her “My sister with Technovation it is very possible, you simply learn by doing, you empower and get empowered too, that’s what happened to me.”
After the workshop, I was not just sad that women still lacked self-esteem and self-assurance to engage in learning a job meant for “men” or because I have to plan another workshop to reinforce the training of mentors.
I was more angered with myself for a task not fully accomplished. I felt very disappointed that my objective was not totally attained. I decided to talk with one of my male friends and collaborators to share my experience and have more tips on how to attract, boost and fire these ladies up.
After I finished narrating my ordeal, my friend said” Never give up, keep on inspiring these women, one day it will be all joy.”
He talked about his own challenges which were even more intensive. One of his stories kept my mouth open for a minute. A parent of one of his female students had come to his institute and insulted him intensively for teaching her daughter how apply technology using a laptop. This parent believed that laptops were used by scammers who spend time online searching for victims to extort money .This parent used violent language on him and threatened to make a case at the police station.She accused my friend of training her daughter to become an international swindler. Immediately she withdrew her daughter from the program.
This conversation left me heartbroken as I kept asking myself, when will this gender tech gap ever close? What else can I do to narrow this divide in my community? How do I create a shift in the mind set of our mothers?
During one of my quiet moments of reflections, I decided to read an article that talked about the digital inclusion of women in underrepresented communities.This article gave me a clear picture and threw more light on ways that could be used to eradicate the stereotypes and stigmas built by our culture.
After reading, I later on understood that presently many people own smart phones, ITC gadgets and that they use for unhealthy practices which has led to parents believing that laptops were meant for crooks and tricksters.
I also found out that this parent had once been a victim.
I envision a society where every woman can use STEM tools and skills to thrive safely in the 21st century in doing their daily activities. It is for this reason that in 2018, I have decided to increase my efforts in transforming the lives of women in my community and beyond.
I want to change the mentality about laptops and smart phones, by helping them to discover the positive benefits that STEM fields provide for our daughters. My dream is to stand up for the younger generation, to see that thousands of girls get digitally empowered at our digital empowerment center for girls.
Many girls have been derailed because their parents have discouraged them and they have no right to express their views about STEM education.
Will it be crime for a girl to decide to become a Tech Guru?
As a Techwoman and STEM advocate, I believe the playing ground is a lot more level than my community implies. I stand up firmly and speak out clearly to change this discourse that is affecting us negatively by preventing women to reach their full potential.