RUTH KAVEKE TRANSFORMING GIRLS INTO IT GURUS
RUTH KAVEKE TRANSFORMING GIRLS INTO IT GURUS
Ruth Kaveke has curved a niche as a female role model in technology who is inspiring more and more girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses.
At the age of 22 while at Technical university of Mombasa, she was alarmed by the low percentage of girls who are pursuing careers in technology, hence her desire to change the situation.
“I had a passion for computers since high school and I wanted to venture into technology. I was fascinated and intimidated at the same time when I saw people operating one and I thought they were doing extraordinary things. I was shocked when I enrolled at Technical University of Mombasa to study Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and Communication. This was when I discovered the low percentage of women who have ventured into this field,”said Kaveke.
At the university, out of 60 students in her class, only four were girls. Two later dropped out and she was challenged to remain in technology to inspire more ladies to pursue STEM subjects.
“You can imagine a class of only two ladies surrounded by male students. There was a time the male students would come to us for assistance in assignments or projects. This was the time I felt more motivated and proud at the same time,” she said.
Kaveke thus started visiting campuses within Mombasa and realized the low percentage of girls venturing into STEM programs. She hence offered to train and mentor girls who are pursuing business and computer science, especially in software and web development.
After graduation, Kaveke and a classmate, Aisha Abdul Kadir realized there was a need to impact more girls into these programmes. They later came up with “Pwani Teknowgalz”, a community-based organization that trains and inspires girls to venture into STEM programmes.
“We decided to form a community-based organization “Pwani Teknowgalz” that inspires girls in secondary schools and universities within Mombasa to pursue STEM programmes.”
They said that to attract more girls to study STEM subjects there is need to tackle and eliminate the stereotypes that they are exposed to at an early stage; the traditional belief that technical courses are meant for men.
The duo believes their efforts will bridge the gender gap in Kenya, especially Mombasa, in this field, by nurturing creativity and innovation.
“You will no doubt be aware that women are underrepresented in STEM occupations at the moment,” they noted.
Pwani Teknowgalz is a great achievement and approximately 600 ladies have benefited from this initiative. Some of the ladies are now able to earn income by creating websites while others have benefitted from various scholarships through Google, Mombasa Girls in STEM, Technovation and Pwani Teknowgalz website development classes. And are able to pass on the skills to others as peer mentors.
Through high school outreaches and training programmes in technology, web design and mobile applications, they have trained girls and are able to find solutions on issues facing the communities, including using mobile phone applications (apps).
“We were proud when Hassan Joho Girls School in Kisauni were able to design an app that they named ‘Garbage Application App’ , that reports illegal Garbage dump sites in Kisauni and its environs ,” they said.
How does the garbage application work? “The application identifies the illegal dumping sites located near schools, hospitals,homesteads among others, by just a snapshot and description of where such sites are located;the information is given to authorities at the County Government. The achievement was even showcased during a Mombasa Girls in STEM fair in 2016,” they said.
Different schools in Mombasa have created apps to address problems in the community that affect girls, like early marriages apps, FGM and sexual assaults, among others.
Other apps are on health matters they connect to qualify doctors, including gynecologists, whenever health problems may occur.
“I just want as many of the next generation of girls to join this field, so as to have our own data entry experts, web designers, software application engineers,” Kaveke explains.
They have visited 13 schools in Mombasa, Likoni, Changamwe, Mvita and Kisauni, but the major challenge they face is that most of the schools lack computers, thus are forced to carry laptops to facilitate the training.
The other challenge is the realization that majority of the girls lack confidence and suffers low self-esteem. She explains that there are times when girls even in high school are scared touse the computer keyboards.
“We have to instill self-confidence in them first, to feel comfortable and express their own ideas,” said Kaveke,noting that they usually get support from teachers.
“Mombasa Girls in Stem” is the name of the project that targets 13 high school girls, 200 in each high school; a project by Tech Women Kenya 2014 alumnae in partnership with Pwani Teknowgalz and Swahili Pot Hub. The main objective of the project is to inspire more girls to venture into STEM fields.
Kaveke added that to sustain their organization, they started affordable website development classes, training Form Four school leavers and university students, to help curb unemployment in Mombasa County.
“I believe through the training skills in technology, and when you have a computer and internet skills one should not complain of difficulty to get a job, she added.
Kaveke also shared with Shani fakii the challenge she faced while working as an intern in a certain organization. She said since she was a female pursuing information technology and communication, her supervisor doubted her skills in website development. She later proved her skills and was able to be assigned tasks without any supervision.
Kaveke was featured by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation Development under one of their Skills4girls videos and Nsese Foundation of Ghana. Ruth Is a Tech Women Alumnae 2017 which is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).