Call to introduce girls to technology during early childhood

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HARARE – Women Affairs, Community, Small Medium Enterprise Development deputy minister Jennifer Mhlanga has challenged parents to ensure their girl children are introduced to computer sciences during early childhood so they could sharpen their creative thinking.

She said this in a joint statement with UN Women country representative Fatou Aminata Lo ahead of International Women’s Day this Thursday.

“Change should start at home with us parents; we must encourage girls to dream big and groom them whilst they are still young so as to develop their natural abilities as they grow,” Mhlanga said.

Her counsel dovetails with this year’s national theme is, “DigitaLL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”.

Mhlanga said government shall continue employing various strategies tailored to remedy the myriad challenges faced by women, among them access to digital skills.

The top government official said society should help government ensure girls have skills and the education they need to thrive in a competitive digital world.

“There is need to employ a variety of approaches to address the various challenges faced by women, which include enrolment in non-formal education, technical and vocational training, agricultural extension services, workplace training and training in these new technologies,” she said.

International Women’s Day, celebrated every 8 March, seeks to highlight women and girls’ achievements.

Said the deputy minister, “It is crucial to introduce STEM education for women and girls in their early childhood years and to continue supporting them throughout their education.

“Computer sciences should start at early childhood and this will enable children to have creative thinking. We should educate for equality,” she said.

She said on its part, her ministry put in place a number of programmes to ensure that women effectively participated in agriculture, mining, tourism, trade and manufacturing sectors.

“These are being implemented under a Broad-based women economic empowerment framework which calls for the participation of women in key sectors.

“Access to infrastructure provides unprecedented opportunities for women.

“It enables them to come up with technological innovations which will promote transformative gains for society.

“It is vital that women’s ideas and experiences equally influence the design and implementation of tech-innovations that shape our future societies,” said Mhlanga.

UN Women country representative Fatou Aminata Lo acknowledged government’s women’s empowerment interventions already in place.

“In the midst of setbacks and challenges women face, I acknowledge the work government of Zimbabwe has done in putting in place policies that allow women to be equally innovative and participate in the technology sector freely.

“The UN in Zimbabwe remains committed to making innovations and technology work for women and girls, UN Women through the Spotlight Initiative have set up in five provinces, mobile knowledge hubs, library and a computer lab, essential integrated one stop repository of information related to violence against women and girls, including sexual gender-based violence, gender equality and women and girls empowerment,” she said.

She however bemoaned the low number of women who have access to technology and the internet.

“The gap in access to digital tools and services tends to be greatest for women with low literacy or low income, those living in rural or remote areas, migrants, women with disabilities, and older women.

The diplomat said attention was needed to address the gender gaps in technology and innovation.

“Women are rarely viewed as technology creators and decision makers which limit the development of products that respond to their needs and views. Everyone should have equal access to digital skills, training and digital services should be affordable, accessible and add value for all women and girls.

“I call for the removal of all barriers that may prevent women and girls from accessing the digital world. Digital literacy should go beyond learning basic computer skills and focus on a set of competences that include technical as well as transferable skills,” she said. – ZimLive