This Youth Month, Vodacom KwaZulu Natal will offer female learners from the province the opportunity to learn how to code during the winter school holidays. Photo: Supplied

DURBAN - This Youth Month, Vodacom KwaZulu Natal will offer 70 school-going female learners from the province the opportunity to learn how to code during the winter school holidays, from 24 June – 05 July 2019.

This investment by Vodacom in digital skills training programmes for young women will help to narrow the gender digital divide at an early age in South Africa.

Female participation is falling in a field that is expanding globally and men still dominate the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates in most countries, these were some of the concerns expressed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recently.

The situation is dire in South Africa as a few years ago the Engineering Council of South Africa put the total number of women engineers registered with the body to 11 percent. 

STEM fields also have fewer women on boards than any other sectors. This gender disparity is alarming, especially as STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development

Coding is a way of solving problems, sequential thinking and stimulating, creating and designing. The ‘Code like a Girl’ programme aims to develop coding skills and valuable life skills for girls aged between 14-18 years, and encourages them to consider the uptake of ICT and STEM subjects. 

It provides influential mentors for the girls to inspire them to be passionate about technology and its possibilities. The programme was implemented in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, DRC and Lesotho with over 755 young girls trained in 2019.

Chris Lazarus, Managing Executive for Vodacom KwaZulu Natal region said, "Let’s face it, taking the necessary measures to equip young girls with the skills they require to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the only way we can truly break down the gender gap barrier and ensure we transition into an inclusive digital future. And that is exactly what we aim to achieve through our Code like a Girl project, we want a future free of the gender inequality, more so when it comes to jobs of the future". 

During the week-long training course, learners will be exposed in basic knowledge of computer languages and development programmes including HTML, CSS, GitHub and Version control, Bootstrap, JavaScript and Basic Computer and Introduction to Coding. 

They will also be taken on a fun and empowering life skills journey while developing coding, presentation and communication skills - providing her with well-rounded development.

At the end of the week, each girl will know how to develop her own website and present her work to the rest of the coding class.

"Projects, such as Vodacom’s Code like a Girl, have the potential to significantly close the gender gap and inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers in the digital era that we are transitioning towards. I believe that we can ultimately change the outlook of the number of females in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers, enabling those females to become pioneers within the technology space," concluded Lazarus.