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Bridging the Gender Digital Divide through Training at the Department of Women and Gender Studies

Presented by Dr. Grace Bantebya - Kyomuhendo, Head, Department of Women and Gender Studies (WGS), Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda (PowerPoint 99 KB)

May 13, 2004

Dr. Bantebya described how WGS’ program has helped build women's ICT skills and provided a career path for young females students, despite a persistent perception of ICT as a male discipline within the Makerere University. While the program faced initial attitudinal challenges such as "What had a Department of Women and Gender Studies got to do with ICT or technology?", the program has generated a lot of interest in the University. She will also discuss key remaining barriers to the participation of young women in ICTs and some of the strategies to reverse them.

Since it was established in 1991, the WGS has developed, in addition to its regular programs, a carefully selected number of training and skills programs aimed at building sustainable capacity in ICTs. Underlying objectives include building capacity of women in ICT skills and knowledge; moving towards the department’s goal of ensuring that gender is mainstreamed in all aspects of development (in this case ICT); reducing the gender digital divide; and increasing general awareness and sensitization about ICT and gender related issues.

To achieve their goals, WGS worked closely with their partners such as Cisco Systems and Carnegie Corporation, New York. Some of the programs established include:

1. Training of female instructors with support of Cisco Systems and training in IT essentials using the Hewlett Packard sponsored curriculum; and

2. Center for training in gender equality related to addressing gender gaps in ICTs, which provides a career path for young females and dismantles the myth that ICT is a male preserve.

Dr. Bantebya stresses that it is possible to attract and retain females in ICT programs with a welcoming and conducive environment for women, and that young women appreciate ICT more and we need to invest in them. For example, 75% of the students who have completed four semesters of the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) program and graduated are female and 80 % of the CCNA graduates are employed. Makerere University and other Universities in Uganda recognize the CCNA qualification as adequate for enrolling into the Bachelor of Computer Science/Information Technology courses and indeed some of their students have enrolled. This channel proves to be one of the ways that they can contribute to increasing female enrolment in the sciences where the proportion of females is appallingly as low as 10% or even zero in some courses.

Finally, Dr. Bantebya shared their future plans such as designing tailored courses in ICT for women entrepreneurs and developing a research program on gender and ICTs.

Commentator: Gita Gopal, Lead Specialist, WBIPR

Moderator:Samia Melhem, Sr. Operations Officer, InfoDev, CITID

Updated: 6/9/04

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Presentation Materials 05/13/04