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By 12 September 2013 | Categories: news

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Ahead of its third African Black Girls Code (BGC) event, to be hosted on 14 September 2013, ThoughtWorks Africa has appealed for participation from the community at large in helping enrich the lives of underprivileged girls.

The initiative, which aims to increase the number of black women in IT, also has a noble objective, of exposing girls of school-going age (seven to 17) from underprivileged backgrounds to the world of software engineering in order to open them to a career in IT.

With assistance, the company also hopes to be able to keep bringing new girls into the fold. Nyari Samushonga, a ThoughtWorks business analyst who is part of the team leading the BGC initiative in South Africa, explained that ideally they would be able to provide one mentor for every two girls; however she pointed out that a class of 48 girls stretches ThoughtWorks' team.

This is compounded by the fact that only having available 24 computers for five hours over a weekend proved difficult when there were project deadlines to meet.

Innovative solutions

However, these logistical challenges prompted ThoughtWorks to open the initiative to broader participation and give the community at large an opportunity to participate in improving more girls’ lives. Samushonga elaborated that by building partnerships with local colleges, universities and corporations, the initiative could access additional computer laboratories in their down time.

Additionally, having more volunteers from outside ThoughtWorks would also enable  multiple venues to be run simultaneously, thus enabling more girls to be reached.

“We could also have more frequent BGC events. Most underprivileged girls don’t have access to computers at home. But, they need practice time to consolidate what we teach. More frequent events would not only provide that but also enable continuity in the mentoring of each girl,” she continued.

Success and consequences

Samushonga  explained that for the first two South African BGC events, held earlier this year, ThoughtWorks partnered with two non-government organisations (NGOs), The Tomorrow Trust and the Kliptown Youth Program, in identifying girls with an interest in computers.

The first event proved so popular that some 50% of the girls returned for BGC 2, triggering a change in emphasis for the ThoughtWorks team and volunteers.

Samushonga  elaborated that ThoughtWorks then  realised that it needed to go further than just introducing girls to IT, it also needed to nurture their interest and growth in the field.

“So, instead of each BGC event covering the same material, in the expectation that there would be new girls each time, we would like the same group of girls to progress through an informal curriculum and develop practical skills,” she added. However, to achieve this and also keep bringing new girls into Black Girls Code, the worthy initiative needs some help and room to grow.  

To the point

Those interested in either being a BGC volunteer or sponsoring venues or facilities can contact Nyari Samushonga on 010 003 2728 or on 072 050 8300.

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