By Chimwemwe Gondwe
The Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) on April 28, 2022 hosted commemorations for this year’s International Girls in ICT Day.
The event, organized by Plan International Malawi, was part of a number of joint projects the University is undertaking in partnership with the NGO.
Other partners during the event included TNM, mHub and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).
Speaking during the function, Plan International Malawi head of human resources, Willy Kasanga said MUST was chosen as host because as a university of science and technology, it had a critical role in bridging the gender gap between men and women in matters of ICT.
“We would also love to see our girls being exposed to ICT at earlier stages of their education so that by the time they are in secondary school, they should be well versed with issues if ICT. Currently, the majority of our students encounter serious ICT lessons when in college and that is not good enough,” said Kasanga.
He said as an organization that promotes the welfare of youths, especially the girl child, Plan International Malawi decided to champion promotion of ICT among girls as one way of encouraging girls to go for STEM related professions or careers.
MUST Vice Chancellor, Professor Address Malata commended Plan International Malawi and all the other partners for targeting girls from less privileged schools where ICT literacy opportunities are limited.
“I urge the private sector to invest in ICT and for government to look into the education curriculum and incorporate issues of ICT at all levels. Students from private schools are exposed to ICT much earlier and this leaves our less privileged girls at a disadvantage,” said Professor Malata, who also shared her tough academic life story with the girls.
Participants observed that as the world goes digital, technology was playing a critical role in all sectors of life or development, and as such there is need for girls to contribute towards the ICT sector.
As part of ICT literacy, Plan International Malawi is working with mHub to train and equip girls with digital skills.
Vanessa Mteketeke, from mHub, said in preparation for the day, they trained 60 secondary school girls from Lilongwe, Dzaleka and Mzuzu.
“The girls were taught to develop mobile applications that help them solve some of the challenges faced in their communities,” she said.
One of the trained girls’ groups showcased a sexual and reproductive healthy rights app aimed at easing access to information by young girls.
Efforts to create a gender balanced ICT sector is in line the Malawi 2063, the country’s long term development blueprint that promotes an improved ICT infrastructure and a world-class digital economy.
The International Girls in ICT Day is held every last Thursday of April and this year, in Malawi it was held under the theme: “Girls creating and innovating technology to advance gender equality”.
After noting that the ICT sector is male-dominated, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2010 set aside the day to raise awareness about the gender digital divide, skills training and encourage and inspire girls to pursue STEM careers.
As a member of ITU, Malawi has been celebrating the day since 2017.