Tech Needs Girls | Paving the way for African women in technology

Word’s out that tech has an image problem among girls who think it might be boring, geeky, uncreative and not really helping anyone! – UN ITU Tech Needs Girls
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Meet Regina Agyare; Asheshi University alumni who dreams of being the first African woman to build and launch a rocket. She is a social entrepreneur using technology to change lives.  After feeling unfulfilled in an IT department at top international bank in Ghana, she quit to follow her dream of owning her own company. Now the CEO of Soronko Solutions and also a Fellow at the Aspen Institute, Regina is a young pioneer of change. She develops applications for disabled persons and encourages girls and women to become more interested in technology in Ghana. Enter Tech Needs Girls Ghana Chapter launched by Regina and Rasheedah Yehuzah in the tech hub of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. On a Saturday morning, the pair and a a couple of volunteers brought together a group of intelligent and gifted young women. The goal of the free workshop was to encourage more girls to tech an interest in technology.
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Tech Needs Girls is a relatively new global initiative at the ITU – the United Nations agency for information & communication technologies (ICT) to ensure that more girls take an interest in technology. For the longest time girls have been allowed to believe that innovation and technology were for boys alone. At Regina’s Tech Meet Girls session girls got in on the action.
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Every student was handed a Tech Needs Girls t-shirt, notepad, pen and two bracelets. As soon as the students got to the computers a a quiet calm fell over the room. It was easy to forget that it was full of teenage girls from junior high to secondary school. The day  started with a tutorial on creating software applications. Female Volunteer mentors gave presentations on  applications (apps for short), they had designed  from scratch. They took the audience through every feature, explaining how each part functioned. The apps ranged from games, voting, job search, education, and more.  The attention to detail was very impressive. It was hard to believe something so complex was actually not that difficult to design. The students were asked how long they thought it would take to create an app using javascript. Javascript is the computer programming language used to create quizzes or polls to make websites more interactive. Regina demonstrated that an app could be built in just minutes, 4 to be exact. Though she argues that it can even be down in 1 minute.  so There were girls from Kumasi Anglican Secondary School, Elite College, Youth Institute for Science and Technology and one student who travelled all the way from Accra with her mother from Faith Montessori to Tech Needs Girls.
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With a bigger than expected turn out Tech Needs Girls is the beginning of something great. On speaking to some of the students, they pointed out how grateful they were to have attended the workshops. For some it was a boost in the right direction and for others clarity in knowing it is okay to pick a subject they enjoy. It helped them gain more insight to a subject with exciting potential job prospects. Some also found the course a little intimidating at first but towards the end of the workshops realized that you don’t have to be Einstein to study IT, you just need discipline and drive. And in some cases, you also have to find a way to convince your parents.
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23-year-old Tech Needs Girls co-founder Rasheeda Yehuza gave up a career in medicine initially against the wishes of her parents.  Like many African parents hers wanted her to be a doctor. At a young age  she was told that it is what she would become and she believed it until her encounter with a computer game called Solitaire. She was fascinated by how it functioned and operated; this triggered her passion for gaming. While at the university she changed her major to Computer Science and she has no regrets.  When she broke the news to her parents, although initially surprised,  they were very supportive and accepted her decision. Rasheeda believes that it is very important for girls to not let fear stop them from choosing their own path. She chose hers and her parents support her none the less. The key she says is to speak up. Still a very much a gamer, Rasheeda has made her own; a very intricate Spa game.
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While Rasheeda’s passion came from a computer game, Regina’s eureka moment came from a movie. She remembers seeing a rocket launch on TV and knowing that she too would one day build her own rocket. The first step in her journey to this was to study Computers. At Asheshi University she graduated at the top of her class and was hired at a software firm and soon after a bank. But an office desk is no place for a GoWoman on a rocket mission so she quit and started Soronko Solutons. As SHE-EO Regina is committed to bringing technology to the underserved.   One particular project she holds close to her heart is The Deaf School. She created an app for deaf children, to use. It was the excitement on the children’s faces that let her know that she had found her calling.  Though there is hardly ever enough computers to go around, or an updated system to use Regina is not deterred. She keeps finding ways to give back to the community. When asked what success means to her, she replies; “Success is watching the seed you’ve planted grow and bear fruit. You have to remember to give back to help others.”
CNN recently featured Regina in their African Start Ups program. You can watch the segment HERE.
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GoWoman is the reawakening of the 21st Century African Woman - a bi-annual magazine sharing the complete stories of the African Woman who finds a way or makes one. We do this for self-love, for womankind and for the continent.

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