Cameroon: Nkafu Policy Institute, Experts strive to Promote gender equality in Technology

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Panelists during the October 12 session organized by the Nkafu Policy Institute, the think tank of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation on the theme Promoting gender equality in technology in Cameroon

In today’s world, technology is critical to our lives. From online education, access to formal and informal learning; access to information and support relating to health and well-being; to find employment, career information, and entrepreneurship opportunities. The list is endless.

However, gender equality in technology still has a long way to go. Bridging the gender gap through digital and entrepreneurship education is key to reaping the benefits of the digital revolution in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 30 per cent of professionals are engaged in the technology industry.

Speaking on October 12 during a session organized by the Nkafu Policy Institute, the think tank of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation on the theme: “Promoting gender equality in technology in Cameroon” Che Randy Nangah, General Secretary of the Organization for Women in Science for Developing World (OWSD), Cameroon said: “A lot of it (gender inequality) has to do with stereotypes; stereotypes even at the onset of learning. Even though it is a societal issue, women, and young girls have these stereotypes about entering into such domains because it is typically considered to be for men.”

“In terms of access, it may not be too much of a problem but more in terms of the use of the technology because to be able to use it you must first be able to know it. Many women shy away from the STEM field, particularly IT and so we should start by orientating young girls to get into this field. It should not be male domineering but should be something which anybody can do without any problem.”

During the session, the panellists analysed the different causes of the difference in access to and use of technology between men and women by targeting some significant sectors of activity in Cameroon; evaluated the main aspects of gender discrimination in access to and use of technology in Cameroon; examined the economic and social factors that accentuate gender inequalities in access to and use of technology in Cameroon and formulated concrete recommendations to reduce inequalities in access to and use of technology between men and women in Cameroon.

“A lot of this gender divide has to do with peer pressure and also who the students talk to before deciding which field of study,” Che Randy Nangah added.

Claude Joelle Kamaha, Wed developer and Software Engineer said some parents are the cause with their education limited to the fact that girls are supposed to stay in the kitchen and that the boy child should go to school. “If you tell a parent to put the girl child in a tech school, they will refuse but will prefer the girl child becomes a doctor. self-confidence amongst the girl child is also lacking; we do not trust ourselves or our potentials and we feel like the men can do better than us,” Claude Joelle Kamaha said.

According to a study conducted by Venture Capital for Africa in 2016, only 9 per cent of start-ups – innovative companies with high growth potential and speculative future value – in Africa are led by women, for a market of over 700 million internet and mobile users. In addition, up to 52 per cent of women still feel that technology is a male industry and 32 per cent still consider gender bias to be a major barrier in the recruitment process.

Despite a wide range of efforts to promote gender equality in science and technology, women remain under-represented in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Considering the important role that technology plays in our everyday lives, the gender imbalance found in our research and innovation efforts is particularly concerning,” said Brigitte Ratzer, a researcher at TU Wien’s office for gender competence.

“Now is the time to upgrade the engagement model and move from enablement to the power of role models to unlock the full potential of the talented women,” said Liat Shentser, Director of Systems Engineering Sales at Cisco Systems International.

“Education has to start early and be adequate to the environment. Parents should give phones to kids to use for educational purposes and not to go on YouTube,” Che Randy Nangah concluded.

With innovation and technology playing an increasingly important role in today’s knowledge-based economy, ensuring gender equity in STEM-focused research and education is more important than ever. Many barriers need to be overcome, including challenging stereotypes and providing more opportunities for women.

 

 

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