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Women gaining skills in ICT

Written by Nosihle Shelembe

Sports, arts and culture

A national skills programme is changing the lives of young South African women and proving that no job is too tough for girls.

Programmes such as Techno Girls are helping the country to enforce women inclusion in industries such as Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

ICT includes any communication device or application, including radio, television, cellphones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems.

The Ministry in the Presidency Responsible for Women, the Department of Basic Education, United Nations Children’s Fund, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and Uweso Consulting have come together to implement the Techno Girls programme. The programme aims to increase the number of women in sectors that are traditionally male dominated.

University of Pretoria student, Lerato Mhlongo took part in the Techno Girls programme, which has brought her one step closer to achieving her dream of being an information broker.

When most teenagers were spending time with friends during the school holidays, Mhlongo was already doing job shadowing at the Airports Company South Africa.

“During the job shadowing the company provided me with money for transport and food,” Mhlongo said.

When Mhlongo joined Techno Girls, she wanted to study civil engineering but later changed her mind when she attended a career guidance session.

She chose to study for a Bachelor of Science in Information Science, because she believed the course touched on important fields since it exposed her to learning about economics, business and information.

“I love the course because I get to gain a lot of knowledge. Once you gain knowledge about a certain thing, you tend to be confident about how you live your life…”

Uweso Consulting Programme Manager Andolene Hofmeyer says the Techno Girls programme is an innovative job-shadowing programme for girls to encourage the uptake of careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The programme has two components: the Techno Girl Job Shadowing and the Techno Girl Alumni.

“The job shadowing is implemented over a period of three years for 15 days a year over the period,” Hofmeyer says.

Mhlongo is one of 19 girls who are part of the Techno Alumni programme and are studying towards a qualification for a career in the ICT sector.

She is also a beneficiary of the National Students Financial Aid Scheme.

More than 9 000 girls have benefited from the Techno Girls programme since it was piloted in 2005. The programme currently has more than 2 700 girls benefiting from job shadowing.

The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has also partnered with Telkom, Intel, Deloitte and SchoolNet to develop an interactive website for the women living in Tlhabane, Rustenburg.

The platform aims to help more women to access ICT services.

The website will have information about the community and an interactive chat medium for women to communicate with each other, allowing a support structure to be formed for its users.

Emang Basadi Advocacy and Lobby Executive Director Bosa Ledwaba says the website had been developed to assist women address issues of domestic violence and crime in the community.

The website will be available on mobile phones, tablets and iPads.

Ledwaba says as part of the programme, about 50 young girls and women have received digital literacy training at the centre, as part of the Lwazi Digital Literacy Training project.

For more information contact: 011 781 9950 or www.uweso.co.za