Find your niche in ICT – Trailblazers advise girls during CARICOM Girls in ICT Day activities
Trailblazers and influencers in the field of technology are encouraging girls and women in the CARICOM region to pursue careers in information and communication technology, and to deepen their footprint in the STEAM fields.
From coding to engineering to artificial intelligence, opportunities abound in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) arena and once they gravitate towards those fields, girls hold the key to propelling social and economic development.
The advice came during the observance of Girls in ICT Day 2021 held under the international theme ‘Connected Girls, Creating Brighter Futures’. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Girls in ICT partnership adapted the theme to ‘Connecting CARICOM Girls; Creating Brighter Futures’, and held two well-subscribed, interactive virtual events on 22 and 23 April.
Hundreds of persons, some as young as six, and as old as 60, participated in the events which the CARICOM Partnership for Girls in ICT organised. The events also served as a launch pad for competitions with prizes by Amazon were up for grabs.
The Partnership Steering Committee comprises Ministries of ICT, Youth, Education and Gender in CARICOM Member States and Associate Members, and regional and international organisations: Guyana Animation Network (GAN) Inc, European Union – Guyana, Women and Gender Equality Commission (WGEC) – Guyana, Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), University of Guyana, University of the West Indies, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), CARICOM Youth Ambassadors corp. (CYAP), Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), ITU, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission and CANTO.
In welcoming remarks, Ms. Jennifer Britton, Deputy Programme Manager, ICT4D at the CARICOM Secretariat shared the goals of the Partnership and the exercises that were being conducted for the Day and some of the issues that women and girls faced relative to STEM and ICT.
Ms. Britton, who is also CARICOM Girls in ICT Partnership focal point, added that girls and women who had paved the way needed to be celebrated and needed to work hard to make the field and the world better for others.
Dr. Saadia Sánchez Vegas, Director and Representative UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, also referred to the impact of the virus, and pointed out that in the midst of the COVID pandemic, digitally empowered young women could advance the recovery process and lead in building back better with digital technologies.
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“Digitally skilled girls and young women can be leaders in innovation and technologies and champions in using ICT to advance Sustainable Development Goals achievement,” she said.
Addressing the opening of the event on 22 April, she said technology continued to transform the way we related to each other, taught, learned and lived. She added that UNESCO endeavoured for girls and women to be on the front line of the digital age.
Her views coincided with those of UNICEF Representative, Mr. Mr. Nicolas Pron, UNICEF Guyana and Suriname Representative who called for urgent action on STEM education and empowerment of girls.
“More broadly, girls’ equal access and participation in ICT are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he noted, while encouraging girls to become involved in coding.
He described technology as a “the great game changer of our time“ and predicted that jobs of the future would be driven by technology. However, he lamented the fact that statistics painted a sad picture of young people who were on the “wrong side of the digital divide“.
“The numbers for women and girls tell a story. Data from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 suggests that women remain severely underrepresented. For instance, only 12% of those involved in Cloud computing are women, 15% of engineers are female, while women form 26% of the data and Artificial Intelligence sector. Globally, 18% of girls in tertiary education are pursuing STEM studies compared to 35% of boys,” he said.
Ms. Leisa Perch, Coordination Consultant, UN Women, told the participants that ICT provided a door to multiple other opportunities and broader implications.
The first session featured Ms. Tiffani Teachey, Senior Mechanical Engineer, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, advocate, professional speaker and best-selling author of What can I be : STEM careers from A-Z; Ms. Laura Alvarez Modernel, Amazon and Ms. Ingrid Riley of Silicon Caribe. The second session panel discussion presenters were Ms. Samantha Sheoprasad, Ecosystem Developer, Trifinity Solutions, Guyana; Ms. Mikiela Gonzales-Campbell, Math Educator & Entrepreneur, Jamaica; Ms. Chelsea Jordan, S&T Guild Representative and Ecology with environmental Science Student, Barbados; and Ms. Donna Buchanan –Lynch, Climate Change, Disaster Risk Reduction and Herbal Alchemist and Apiarist, Jamaica.
Day Two – Web Adventures – was devoted to practical demonstrations of coding and creating games. The participants were guided by University of Guyana (UG) lecturer, Ms. Penelope DeFreitas; UG Computer Science student, Ms. Nandanie Jagbir; Ms. Sheree Cameron, Geoinformatics Specialist, GeoTechVision; and Mr. Josiah Burkett GIS Analyst, GeoTechVision.
Moderators for the events were Ms Erica Simmons, Director, 4th Industrial Revolution Technology Research and Development Centre, Caribbean Maritime University, Jamaica; Danielle Mullings, President, Faculty of Science and Technology Guild Committee, The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, and Ms. Tyrhonda Knowles-Glinton, Business Analyst, Department of Digital Transformation, Ministry of Finance, Bahamas. The CARICOM Secretariat sincerely thanks its partners, UNESCO (Jamaica) and the University of Guyana for making their Zoom platforms and IT teams available to support and ensure the success of both events.
This is the 10th year of the international observance of Girls in ICT Day. Since 2011, more than 377,000 girls and young women have participated in more than 11,400 International Girls in ICT Day celebrations in 171 countries, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which initiated the observance. The Day is set aside to place the spotlight on girls and young women with the aim of encouraging and empowering them to consider studies and careers in the growing field of ICTs. This will enable both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.
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