“We must create a strong science and technology base with women’s involvement and participation, if we are to achieve our development agendas. To do so we will need both women and men using science, technology and innovation to solve our global challenges” said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Kiki Gbeho.
On March 8, men and women alike will celebrate women in commemoration of International Women’s Day. The UN theme for this year is “Time is now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”, which is in line with the broader social media themed movement #PressforProgress.
“That said, women remain a minority in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Technology is a part of our daily lives and has helped lift millions of people out of poverty. From our smart phones that help us access and share information in an instant, to technology that helps us better track climate and produce improved food, technology has infinite possibilities to promote change- we need women to be part of this movement” shared Gbeho.
Gbeho further motivated that women’s role in Science and Technology has not always been recognized. Where women have been able to participate in the technological revolution, they have made important and ground-breaking contributions.
“Just remember the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ that tells the true story of brilliant African American female mathematicians and their role in helping NASA to win the ‘space race’. This is one illustration of the fact that women’s greater contribution can be transformative” she explained.
Gbeho also highlighted that this year’s observance of international women’s day takes place during a time when the world is observing a global call for change regarding sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women.
“Here in Namibia there has been progress towards gender equality. Namibia ranks 4th in Africa and 11th globally, in terms of gender parity in parliament. Two of the four top positions in Government are held by women. However, you only have to open the newspaper and read stories of women being beaten, or worse killed or hear about babies abandoned, to realize that there is still work to be done”, she solemnly reflected.
An abundance of data demonstrating that women are great multipliers of the development process exists. Evidence abound that a child with a mother having some formal education is more likely to survive their fifth birthday, receive adequate nutrition and be immunized and enrolled in school. Food security in African countries also rest on the shoulders of women with approximately 30% employed females in the global agricultural labour force. Hence according to Gbeho taking a single day to celebrate women and their achievements, while also reflecting on the work that still needs to be done to ensure gender equality, makes good development sense.
“The world has launched a new Development Agenda with 17 Development Goals to eradicate poverty, save the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Here in Namibia, we are waging a War on Poverty to ensure that no one feels left out. Thus, we cannot create ‘the world we want’ if half of the population is left out of critical professions such as Medicine, Agricultural Economy or Coding to create software, apps or websites” emphasized Gbeho.
In Namibia, the UN System through its Gender Theme Group will support the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, to lead commemorations in Zambezi and other Regions to recognise the day.
The Patriot also reached out to Namibian women in ICT, asking them what it means to #PressforProgress as women in the tech’world. Dr Anicia Peters, Faculty Dean of Computing and Informatics at NUST was adamant that the spotlight should be on younger women making strides in all spheres of influence.
“As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it is very important that the media feature the youth who are making strides in different vocations as opposed to the current norm where older women take centre stage. For the gender gap to be bridged, it is important that young women be mentored as well as nurtured and when they do excel, the spotlight should be on them as well because just as they have role models, they too can become role models” qualified Peters.
Amalia Leo, 3rd Year at IUM- Bachelors in Business Information System
“Pressing for progress for me means that I learn more and improve my skills in IT as well as share knowledge with people. I want to encourage young girls to register for IT related courses because every field needs technology. This is important to bridge the knowledge gap between men and women”.
Nashilongo Gervasius-Nakale, President of the Internet Society, Namibia Chapter
“Pressing for Progress means being brave as a woman, because whilst I do not have a technical background, my interest in ICT comes from a policy perspective and to that end I pursued a Master’s Degree in ICT and the Knowledge Society. There is no evidence that women are inferior and cannot do well in maths, science or computing. So, we need to press forward but space must also be created from a policy perspective. Recently, I had a look at a website of an ICT organisation which was largely dominated by men and I feel that there are myths that attribute to this. Hence a core challenge is also to identify and address those myths that act as hindrances for women to pursue ICT vocations”.
Anastacia Shipepe, Programmer and IT lecturer at UNAM
“The one thing I tell my female students is to focus and challenge themselves by learning skills such as programming. The field of IT requires patience and it is a step by step journey so there is no reason to rush for the top, so I always encourage them to appreciate the beginning stages and growth will eventually come for them to be good programmers”.
Emilia Shikeenga, Business Intelligence Analyst, Telecom
“When it comes to tech’ women in the Corporate world, we are seeing a gradual increase, but it is still mostly dominated by men. This is because we now have younger women being inspired to take up ICT as a career. That is why platforms like the ‘Namibian Women in Computing Society’ as well as the Internet Society are very important because they nurture role models for aspiring female technicians.
From my personal experience I was told by my parents to pursue more feminine related vocations because they do not view IT as feminine, but I had to tell my mum that Computing was really something I loved and wanted to grow in. So, you find uninformed girls, especially in the rural areas who are very limited to these stereotypes on what suits a woman and what suits men. I feel that this needs to be challenged and to press for progress means raising awareness to encourage more women and girls to sign up for IT”.
Happy International Women’s day to all the Mothers and daughters of the Namibian soil!