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For a long time, women in Nigeria and other parts of Africa have been a disadvantaged group when it comes to educational and career opportunities in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field. Most girls in school were encouraged to take courses that were regarded easier and more adaptable to being a wife and a mother, while avoiding male-dominated areas such as engineering and technology. However, this is gradually changing.
Several organizations and individuals have taken the bull by the horns and are creating opportunities for women to get involved in the study of STEM courses, and ultimately work and become experts in the field. In Nigeria, there are several initiatives that help to educate women and girls in areas of STEM such as coding and programming. These initiatives are geared towards one purpose; encouragement and empowerment of women and girls to participate in technology-related fields. There are various areas of focus, including getting girls interested in ICT-related education and careers, removing limitations and barriers culturally and socially, increasing the participation of women in STEM careers, and providing the required training and opportunities for women and girls to thrive in the STEM field.
Organizations that are blazing the trail include High-TechWomen, an NGO that works with women and youths to empower them through ICT for research, entrepreneurial development, competitive advantages and wealth creation. With a vision to ensure that every woman and youth in Nigeria is ICT literate and can use it to create wealth, High-Tech Women carries out training a in technology for young people, in collaboration with schools, churches and government agencies.
Many programs in the STEM field for women and girls in Nigeria are championed by individuals such as Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin of Pearls Africa Foundation, who started Girls Coding, which equips young girls with functional IT skills that will create economic independence. Girls aged between 10 and 17 years are taught programming, UI design and animation. They also get to relate with female mentors in the technology space.
Another such program is AboCoders, an initiative of Aspilos Foundation, which focuses on women and girls in Northern Nigeria. Abocoders aims to provide sustainable livelihoods using ICT training, with emphasis on software development, as a means of empowerment.
InspireIT is a further organization, founded by Nuela Adanna Ononiwu, and focuses on mentoring girls in basic computer skills, programming skills and information technology consultancy. More than thirty girls have been mentored by Nuela via the initiative which took off in 2014. She hopes to see more women and girls connect through the mentoring program.
Another initiative is CodeIT, which is aimed at developing young people in the area of computer science by focusing on building hardcore programming skills at an early age. The initiative, which targets children between the ages of 5 and 18, was founded by Damilola Anwo-Ade who is passionate about the development of IT skills in young people especially girls. CodeIT aims to train 10,000 children by the year 2020.
As more efforts are put into the education, training and opportunities creation for Nigerian women and in STEM fields, there is no doubt that women will become dominant participants in STEM in the near future.