• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Thousands of northern women scale life with tech

Thousands of northern women scale life with tech

“Today, I am a data analyst,” Galadima Adamu declared on a stage in Kaduna, a far cry from her kitchen cook job just a year ago. She is one of 3,400 women in Kaduna transforming their lives through the Arewa Ladies4Tech initiative.

Adamu, a Kaduna Polytechnic graduate, was part of a group of women sharing their tech success stories on a makeshift stage in the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua hall, Kaduna.

“My name is Elizabeth Oyinye,” said another participant. “I have transitioned from being a customer relationship manager at my dad’s business to a data analyst. Today, I visualise data and automate business processes because of the skills I have acquired.”

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These ladies are part of a group of 3,400 who are acquiring tech skills with the help of the Arewa Ladies4Tech initiative by Data Science Nigeria, supported by Google. The programme aims to fill the gender gap in tech and address gender inequality in a country and region where it is prevalent.

According to the 2023 Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum, Nigeria ranked 130th out of 146 countries globally and 30th out of 36 countries regionally. The country ranked 137th in gender educational attainment and 54th in economic participation and opportunity. These statistics highlight the urgent need to address gender inequality in Nigeria.

The Arewa Ladies4Tech initiative is significantly reducing this gap by equipping women with in-demand tech skills.

A survey by Startup Genome revealed that only about 14 percent of startups in Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries have female founders. For every $1 all-male founding teams received in 2023, all-female teams received only 2.7 cents (37 times less). The initiative hopes to change these statistics in the future.

“We are just trying to fill that gap by bringing in women,” said Hadiza Balarabe, the Deputy Governor of Kaduna, regarding the initiative.

The journey of these women, while inspiring, has its challenges. Many participants, like Khadijah Suleiman, a Mass Communication graduate and mother of five, had to navigate the complexities of managing their family responsibilities while attending classes.

Khadijah shared, “It was a struggle; sometimes, I had to walk to the training. I had to find a way to balance my family responsibilities with my commitment to the programme. However, the support and cooperation of everyone in the team helped me build a life around it.”

Her class was filled with a lot of women in her shoes. “They also had to take their children to class. But the zeal to learn kept them, and they showed up daily,” she said.

Khadijah, a journalist by profession, now leverages her data skills to tell visual stories. She also imparts this knowledge to the next generation as a journalist trainer at a local polytechnic.

Hadiza Ismail, formerly a civil servant, now interns with an international organisation as a data analyst after three months of intensive training and one month of mentorship. According to her, the initiative is a testament to how practical skills and knowledge can address a crucial global gap.

“The initiative addresses an existing gap,” said Ismail. “There is a high demand for data analysts, yet only 15 percent are women. This programme targets women to address this gap. It is intentionally targeted at women. As we know, the gap in the north is wider than in other parts of the country.”

Faiza Sani, the initiative’s programme manager, noted difficulties penetrating the north, especially targeting females. “However, we have seen positive responses. Interestingly, most people who attend this class are married women and even bring their babies to class. We make provisions for this.”

Sani highlighted that many women who attend these training classes still return home to prepare meals for their families, pinpointing their rough path to skill mastery.

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“Most of these women, after learning, still have to return to prepare meals for their family. And there is a lot of practice time needed for tech. So, most of them practice during the day here. But they have almost zero practice time when they get home. The women themselves are eager, but there are a lot of restrictions.

Additional challenges include a lack of data access and learning devices. “Training hubs have been proactive, creating copy centres for women to get preloaded content. Some women save up to buy laptops, only to face setbacks like theft.”

The programme has grown through word of mouth and online campaigns. Sani emphasised that the hub’s training coordinators are females to inspire participants, and Hausa and English are used in the hubs.

“Seeing women from nothing getting to becoming something. Some spoke only Hausa during their registrations and didn’t know how to send emails. Seeing women transform their lives in three months is incredible. They start with zero knowledge and end up doing complex analytics,” Sani noted as her motivation.

The programme is almost at its tail end and expects to empower another 1,600 women in the coming months. While its future remains uncertain, its impact is undeniable: it has not only opened brighter opportunities for northern women in the tech sector but is also dismantling gender barriers along the way.