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Girls encouraged to change face of coding

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Lisa Isaacs

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Cape Town-151202-Young ladies learn to write computer code at the American Section of the Central Library. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

IN AN effort to change the face of the male-dominated computer coding industry, high school girls from around the city have taken up the task through the Code for Cape Town project.

Code for Cape Town was started to encourage girls to learn the language of the internet so that they could create computer software, apps and websites.

This year 65 girls from, among others, Khayelitsha, Claremont and Tokai received bursaries thanks to the support of local companies to join the 18-month programme, where they are mentored by technology and coding experts.

The girls have so far designed a number of websites for local entrepreneurs, project founder Emma Dicks said. “I feel that the narrative of technology is not appealing to young girls; young girls want to change the world and technology is a powerful tool to do that,” she said.

Dicks said the stereotype that programming and computer sciences were for men would be changed and the gender roles redefined.

She added that the programme aimed to equip young women entering the labour force with tech and problem-solving skills. Their curriculum develops skills in web development, design thinking and communication.

Azraa Vally, 16, said she had learned to love coding through the course. She attends the Cape Academy of Maths, Science and Technology.

“The programme started in the June holiday and the first day I went there it was something new and I was curious. By the end of that day I was in love with coding.”

She said most of the tutors were men. “All of them have told us they’re excited because they want girls to be in the industry. We are on our way to changing that. I have created two websites already and I never thought I’d be able to do that,” said Vally, who plans to study mechatronics.

Sisipho Matandela, from Khayelitsha, said female tutors helped the girls understand how to advance in the field.

“We have learnt about different programming languages and we have also had sessions with women who work in the technology industry,” the Centre of Science and Technology pupil said.

Members of the public can contribute to Code for Cape Town by volunteering as a tutor or donating a laptop.

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