How female engineer pushes for more girls in digital space

ON March 8 this year, Tanzania joined the rest of the world to mark the International Women’s Day (IWD).  It is a global day, celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

This year’s IWD was marked under the theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality. According to the UN Women the theme recognizes and celebrates the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.

In Tanzania the day was marked under the national theme ‘Innovation and Technology Changes: A Catalyst for Gender Equality”. Although both themes focus on recognising women and girls who have done wonders in the development of technology globally and Tanzania their presence in the field is still low.
Statistics indicate that Tanzania has very few women who take part in Information, Communication Technology (ICT), in which only 25 per cent of women work in the field and only 10 per cent of female students acquire degree in Computer Science.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) statistics for 2019 indicate the digital gender gap of 10 per cent in the use of internet globally, of which the proportion of all women using the internet globally is 48 per cent, against 58 per cent of all men.

To address the situation, the government in collaboration with various stakeholders has been taking various measures aimed at encouraging more girls to undertake science subjects in order to increase their number in the field.

The government has put emphasis on encouraging more girls to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which is implemented in line with the construction of 26 girls’ secondary schools in the country.

The provision of fee free education also aims at increasing student enrollment from pre primary school to advanced level education including girls. It has also employed more science teachers.

Recently, the ‘Daily News’ interviewed Ms Nseya Kapiyalango who is an Information Technology (IT) woman and telecommunication engineer.  She is also Co-founder and Managing Partner at Inspire Consultants Limited, a consulting firm that provides advisory services in the areas of Systems Strengthening and Business Development.

Eng Kapiyalango worked hand in hand with male counterparts to Review and Develop seven   government systems for Planning and Budgeting (PlanRep) and Service Delivery Facility Financial Reporting (FFARS) for use by Tanzania’s 185 Local Government Authorities.

She excelled in her role and is revered as IT and Telecommunication guru in the industry in Tanzania.

According to her, advocacy and emphasis has to be put in place to encourage more girls to pursue Science, Mathematics and Technology studies from primary schools to University to have more girls in Digital Space.

She said, society need to start encouraging and motivate young girls at early stages of their studies that Mathematics and Science is for everyone not only for men but for both girls and boys can do best in the subjects.

“I believe if we start teaching our young girls at early stage it will increase number of girls who will be motivated to do more science and technology studies as boys,” she said.

Eng Kapiyalango said that her father inspired her to choose a career in the field because he started calling her an engineer at a very young age.

“As young girl I was fascinated about Science, Mathematics and Technology… I was eager to know why things happen the way they do, I wanted to know more and always excited about numbers. This is what made me do best in mathematics and science,” Ms Kapiyalango said.

She said after completing her ordinary level education at Nganza Girls Secondary School, she went for advance level at Tambaza High school pursuing PCM and thereafter she applied for Bsc Telecommunications Engineering at University of Dar es Salaam, College of Engineering and Technology (CoET).

“I loved and enjoyed what I was studying and proud to become an Engineer. After graduation I had opportunity working in Health Sector, where by I had chance to use technology in solving healthcare challenges,” she said.

According to her, she later   went to pursue further studies in the UK where she I did Masters in Health Informatics which opened more opportunities in her career advancement.

She said that one of her big achievements in her career is that she had an opportunity to work with great team and mentors who have helped in so many ways to develop and implement national systems that has been used from national level to facilities.

In 2017 I was awarded by Prime Minister   Kassim Majaliwa being among the team member and the only lady in the team who led Development of planning, budgeting and reporting system (PlanRep); Facility Financial Accounting and Reporting System (FFARS) through USAID/Public Sector Systems Strengthening Project (PS3).

Ms Kapiyalango said throughout her career she has been dedicated and committed to use technology in improving service delivery in both public and private sector settings through various System strengthening projects that she had opportunity to work in several years.

“I have been also working in providing mentorship/coaching to young graduates especially girls who have no experience working in ICT field. I feel so proud when I see girls doing their best in creating solutions that solves different challenges in our communities,” she said.

She however, said that despite all the success in working in ICT, there are still some challenges that she has been facing in the field including limited number of women/girls who practice in digital/ICT space.

“For instance when I worked in several project most of my collogues are men , you might find one or two women out of 10 or more staff, so we work in male dominated field where women are very few,” she  said.

The engineer noted that although women have equal opportunity as men in the field there is still a lot of advocacy and emphasis has to be put in place to encourage more girls to pursue Science, Mathematics and Technology studies.

Eng Kapiyalango said basing on this year’s theme, digital technology can help to promote gender equality by proving access to information, educational resources and training opportunities to women.

“As a nation, we need to rescue women with immediate measures andstrengthen the next generation to deal with technology and digitalization,” she said.

In her speech to mark this year’s IWD, Minister for Community Development, Gender, Women and Special groups, Dr Dorothy Gwajima said that the government in collaboration with stakeholders will put more emphasis on stimulating inclusive technology, innovation and provision of education to attain gender equality.

She said the Ministry of Education Science and Technology has included ICT in teaching and learning…”in 2020 a total of 1,347 trainers were trained including 893 men and 454 women.

She said the government will continue to take various steps to enable more women to benefit from digital technology.

She identified steps being taken by the sixth phase government under President Samia Suluhu Hassan to enable more women to use digital services including establishment of women’s empowerment forums.

Dr Gwajima said that by February this year 17 regions had already formed the forums.

“The provision of soft loans to women entrepreneurs has also increased from 3.39bn/- which was given to 2,225 groups in 2015/16 to 111.03bn/- that benefited 34,502 groups with a total of 996,087 of them being women in 2021/22 financial year,” Dr Gwajima said.

She added that, a total of 21,546 women entrepreneurs from 26 regions in Mainland  have benefited from 78.6bn/-  provided as  soft loans between 2018/2019  and April 30  last  year  through Tanzania  Postal  Bank currently Tanzania Commercial Bank.

She noted that, digital financial services in the country have been strengthened and can be accessed by women in both rural and urban areas.

“Statistics indicate that 99 per cent of adults including women in Tanzania are aware of digital financial services through their mobile phones, where 45 per cent use the services effectively,” Dr Gwajima said.

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