• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Marieme Jamme, helping girls, young women gain financial independence through technology

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Lady Marieme Jamme is a distinguished award winning technology innovator and pioneer. Marieme is Founder/CEO of iamtheCODE. She is celebrated worldwide for her commitment to advancing digital literacy among young women and girls in some of the world’s most challenging environments, including refugee camps, detention centres, and slums across Africa and Asia. She is on a mission to empower 1 million girls and young women to be coders by 2030.

Identifying herself as a ‘concerned African,’ she brings an impressive background with over two decades of business-to-business (B2B) experience to her pioneering efforts. Among her significant contributions is creating the first-ever platform dedicated to teaching coding to young women and girls, an endeavour made possible through partnerships with leading global technology firms.

Her expertise and dedication are also acknowledged through her role as a council member on the World Economic Forum’s reskilling platform, where she continues to influence global education and empowerment initiatives. She opened the first-ever coding academy in a refugee camp in Kenya dedicated to teaching young girls digital skills.

Can you share with us your journey and what inspired you to focus on advancing digital literacy among young women and girls in challenging environments

My journey towards advancing digital literacy among young women and girls in challenging environments has been deeply influenced by my personal experiences, passion for technology, and commitment to social justice.

Growing up as a young woman, I faced significant challenges, including being trafficked and sexually abused as a child. I was born in Senegal to an aristocrat mother who originates from Saint Louis of Senegal from the Toucouleurs ethnic group. In the early 90s, I learnt that the father I never knew had died and was a prominent figure in post-colonial Senegal and had other children.

In the 1970s, my mother was having difficulty raising me and my twin brother, so we were sent to live in a village called Kaolack, where I was raped at the age of 11 years by my Quranic teacher. Despite these hardships, I was determined to transform my life through education and technology. I learned to read and write in my teenage years, which ignited my passion for learning and empowerment.

How does it feel creating a platform dedicated to teaching coding to young women and girls?

It is an honour to have this platform available to young women and girls. Africa needs this and the young people too. iamtheCODE is the first Africa-Led global movement to mobilise governments, businesses and investors to support girls and young women in STEAMD (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Design) and teach 1 million girls and women how to code by 2030. We will mobilise undergraduate students, and bring marginalised girls into existing technology hubs where they can learn how to code with our technology partners.

A fundamental pillar of iamtheCODE’s work is the empowerment of women and girls across the world, aligning with critical elements of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). iamtheCODE is a unique movement of direct action to improve economic outcomes for women and girls, as well as a direct implementation of the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

How were you able to get the buy-in of partnerships with leading global technology firms?

Technology companies are looking to make a difference and they know it makes sense to support our girls. Investing in girls is a great investment.

Tell us about being a council member on the World Economic Forum’s reskilling platform

Being a council member is a big responsibility, I am honoured to have a seat at the table and be able to serve. The members constitute the Champions Group and they are the key leadership and advisory body of the reskilling revolution, advising the World Economic Forum on its efforts in the areas of education, skills and learning. Furthermore, we provide strategic guidance on the conceptualisation and execution of the reskilling revolution roadmap. We include CEOs, heads of international and supranational organisations, and civil society leaders who are committed to the reskilling revolution, representing a wide variety of industries, geographies, experiences and intellectual perspectives.

Share with us on opening the first-ever coding academy in a refugee camp in Kenya dedicated to teaching young girls digital skills

It is a privilege to have the first coding academy open in a refugee camp. This gives me great hope. This project is dear to my heart and I am very enthusiastic, committed and dedicated to it. Africa is a land of opportunities. I believe that we entrepreneurs have the key to change our continent. With our collaborative effort in Africa, change can happen. We can share our ideas globally and accelerate humanity.

What are some of the key challenges you have faced in implementing digital literacy programmes in refugee camps, detention centers, and slums across Africa and Asia?

Not having government support to take this matter seriously is a huge challenge. You can imagine how much we can do with enough governmental support. Such a laudable initiative will thrive with as much support as possible. Governments need to embrace this and pull their weight behind it. By doing so, we can do more and the goal to empower 1 million girls and young women to be coders by 2030 can come to fruition.

How do you tailor your approach to meet the specific needs of these communities and empower young women and girls through technology?

Simple. We work with girls from 18-25 as they need to enter the job markets.

What role do you see technology playing in transforming education and creating opportunities for marginalised communities?

First, is by enhancing access to education. For instance, through our online learning platforms in partnership with Skillsoft. We provide access to high-quality educational content regardless of geographical location. Our platform has courses that are accessible to learners from 18 to 24. Our digital learning platform was launched in Africa’s largest refugee camps where tens of thousands of young girls and boys will have online and offline access to one of the world’s richest and most intuitive learning interfaces.

The curriculum focuses on teaching four core, in-demand programming languages (HTML, CSS,
JavaScript, Python), as well as skills development in well-being, design, innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship in alignment with their 12 weeks mentoring program.

Can you share some success stories or impact stories from your work that demonstrate the power of digital literacy in improving the lives of young women and girls in these challenging environments?

Of course. So many stories to share. Our refugee girls are coders in the most marginalised places on earth. Here are some:

“iamtheCODE empowered me and gave me confidence to stand in front of people and express myself. Now, I know that a girl living in a refugee camp can aspire to become an electrical engineer.”

– Charity Nyabaa Philip.

“In 12 weeks, I built a toolset to help me become the person I have always wanted to be, see my successes, visualise my goals, understand the obstacles, create a positive mental picture, clear my mind of doubt, and embrace the challenges and stay on track.”

-Akol Dau Mabior.

“iamtheCODE is an opportunity to see life through different perspectives, to support others to become better and grow. Simply a place where I became a better human being.”

-Carolina Espindola.

“By embracing diversity, we cannot only make it in the future, but also make a difference in the society at large.”

-Jacinta Mkanyika

“I can tell my story now without fear or shame, and it is because of the impact of the mentorship.”

-Malith N. Ayiek.

“iamtheCODE helped me in finding my purpose in life, which is becoming a green-energy advocate.”

-Mary Anyang Anyith.

“On Tuesday 24th March 2018, Marieme Jamme gave a talk at my school detailing her story, coding and sustainable development. Throughout the talk, I was struck by her sheer courage and fascinating work. My head teemed with questions. I put up my hand again and again, as Marieme and I talked back and forth about everything from the morality of developing nations forsaking industrial development, to lower carbon emissions to the fundamental workings of a raspberry pi computer.

That night, I was so inspired by the talk that I was determined to contact Marieme again. I sent her an email asking if there was anything I could do to work with IamtheCODE. After a further chat, I got started writing some social media content on the incredible girls at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and generating ideas on lesson plans. As an 18 year-old girl in a relatively egalitarian society, I am deeply grateful for the education I have received. I, however, want all girls and women to have the same opportunities. In Kerala, a progressive district in India, there is a saying: ‘educate a boy and you educate one person, educate a girl and you educate a nation.’ That is precisely the power of IamtheCODE and why I am so excited to play at least a small role in the charity’s outstanding work in the future.”

-Sophia

“As an Ambassador, Marieme and iamtheCODE’s team gave me real responsibilities: I was a mentor on the first Hackathon in São Paulo in 2017, where we met inspiring girls with powerful stories. In 2018, I organised the girl’s logistics for the Hackathon in Recife and in 2019, me and my friends launched the first digital club in Salvador. I have also improved my public speeches and project planning abilities. Most importantly, I have learned how to be a good mentor to the girls. IamtheCODE has also taken me to levels I couldn’t even imagine. Marieme, through iamtheCODE, her powerful mentorship and her lovable friendship, has been teaching me how to write my story differently. I hope I can also encourage other girls to do the same.”

-From Brazil

How do you measure the effectiveness of your programmes and ensure they are sustainable in the long run?

Our girls are coding and growing. We have established partnerships with local organisations, governments, and other stakeholders. Collaborative efforts can enhance resource sharing and support, and this can happen through pooling resources, shared infrastructure, knowledge and best practice sharing, coordinated service delivery, advocacy, influence and relationship building. Collaborations are indeed important, and it fosters connections and trust which can lead to further opportunities down the line. The key is that by working together, we can achieve more collectively than we could independently, and this enhances overall support and capabilities.

What advice do you have for young women and girls who are aspiring to pursue careers in technology and innovation, especially in challenging settings?

Go for it. Now you have platforms like iamtheCODE, where we are committed to teach, train, and equip future generations of young leaders. We envision a world in which the darkness of suffering is healed by the light of compassionate action. We communicate with respect and look after each other. We operate as a force for good and do not judge one another. When we fall short, we apologise. So, to all the girls and young women aspiring to pursue careers in technology and innovation, especially in challenging settings, know this, nothing can stop you.

How can the global community, individuals and organisations support and amplify your efforts in advancing digital literacy and empowerment for young women and girls across Africa and Asia?

Just join us and come on board. That is why we take advocacy for this cause seriously. We believe that the more people know about us and what we do, the more they are interested to join in propagating this good news to all. We are addressing the world’s most urgent societal challenges, by giving young girls a chance to become digital leaders with a goal of reaching 1 million women and girl coders by 2030.

To support this as a business, for instance, we advise that you will need to articulate your strategy and build a case that is presented to your executive management team. After which you hold an executive management meeting to articulate your strategy and get your colleagues on board to support the iamtheCODE mission to reach 1 million women and girls coders by 2030. I say this because by supporting iamtheCODE, not only are you investing in the future generation of digital leaders, but they could become future employees within your organisation.

Another way to get involved is by informing employees of your mission to be a force for good in the world. Companies like Salesforce are engaging their employees in millions of hours of mentoring and giving back to communities in need. This is not charity, they understand that iamtheCODE is building a pipeline of future talented leaders who will be in high demand globally. Positive change in the world shouldn’t be limited to the sustainability team, get the whole company giving everyone the chance to both innovate and prosper.

You can also get involved by inviting your customers to donate to iamtheCODE. By sharing our mission with customers, you will show the positive impact that your company is having whilst simultaneously spreading iamtheCODE’s important message. You can get your marketing and communications team involved by adding the Global Goals icons and branding to your website, sending out communications and partnering with our team.

iamtheCODE is viewed as a positive and inspiring movement. Permit me to share some quotes from some distinguished people who align with our vision and goals.

“Empowering girls through technology and creative learning will help them break the code of success and become great leaders. Movements like #iamtheCODE provide a much needed opportunity.”

-Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President, National Transformation Partnerships, Microsoft International.

“Thrilled for the launch of the @i_amthecode movement, a great opportunity to mobilise business to invest in young girls and women in STEM in Africa and beyond.”

-Jessica Long, former MD, Strategy & Sustainability, Accenture, now Managing Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, Closed Loop Partners.

“Africa needs to build capacity in STEAMD disciplines. The #iamtheCODE movement is a direct response in mobilising government, business and investors to support young women and girls to become data scientists and digital leaders of tomorrow.”

-Cina Lawson, Minister of Digital Economy of Togo.

“”Lady Mariéme Jamme is a woman on a mission to enable 1 million young women and girls to code by 2030. Since 2017, I have had the pleasure to get to know her, witness her commitment and see her move from strength to strength, building a consortium of supporters who believe in her mission. Mariéme and her passionate, dedicated team are knowledgeable, resourceful and innovative. They have, in 2020, proven themselves to be an exponential organisation, quickly pivoted their operations online without missing a beat. I look forward to seeing great things from iamtheCODE and anticipate celebrating their success as collaborators, educators and change makers.”

-Head of Sustainable Technology at Unilever

What are your future goals and vision for expanding the reach of your digital literacy initiatives to more communities in need?

What I really want is partners who can help us scale our program. iamtheCODE is African and we need all hands on deck to make it a success.

What day will you never forget and why?

The day I got my British passport is a day I will never forget. I felt free and honoured.

What is the greatest lesson life has taught you?

Life has taught me to never give up even when things are really hard and challenging. Life has taught me to be disciplined, make friends and build relationships.

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for my son and the trust of the girls across the world.

What is next?

To reach the goal by 2030, 1 million women and girls who are coders.

Concluding words

Be proud of who you are. Work hard and forgive people.