‘Girls need equal access to the internet and digital devices’

Girls must have equitable access to the internet and digital devices, as well as targeted investments to make it easier for them to access and use technology in meaningful ways.

This came out of the International Day of the Girl Child Commemorations on Tuesday hosted by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC).

The United Nations first commemorated International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2012, to raise awareness among governments, politicians, and the general public about challenges affecting girls in order to provide greater possibilities for them.

This year’s theme, “Digital generation. Our generation,” was inspired by the outbreak of Covid-19, which drove the world into unprecedented levels of ICT adoption as individuals had to learn to live with restricted movement during lockdown while still attending school and work.

BCC held a career guidance expo at the Large City Hall to promote the use of ICTs by girls.

The exhibitions focused on enhancing knowledge of the digital world for female secondary school learners and encouraging them to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Acting Deputy Director in charge of all primary schools in Bulawayo under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Sibongile Khumalo, said the International Day of the Girl Child was necessary, as it eliminated gender-based challenges such as poor learning opportunities, violence, and other forms of discrimination that girls faced.

“The day significantly feeds into Sustainable Development Goals 3,4, 5, 8 9 which are priority goals Zimbabwe is pursuing,” she said and encouraged communities to help girls take up opportunities presented to them.

Khumalo acknowledged this year’s theme was apt as Covid -19 had affected learning in schools such that learners were subjected to long breaks, with no access to classrooms.

“As such an embracing of ICTs was called for. As a ministry, we created a digital platform where learning material for all levels was put together so learners could access learning while at home or where they were. We also had an Imfundo endlini platform that has plenty of materials from ECD to A Level,” she said

The deputy director stated that although Covid-19 had worsened existing pressures on girls, given skills and chances, they could be changemakers.

“We encourage the girl child to pursue STEM subjects so that they partake in related careers because a lot still needs to be done to improve the participation of girls in these areas,” concurred Thabani Sithole, BCC Deputy Director of Housing and Community Services.

Sithole said girls and young women remain the least privileged in terms of access to the internet, therefore the City of Bulawayo has a role to play in digital penetration.

“This can only be realised when its centres for the youth vocational training home craft as well as schools, which must be fully equipped to support the initiative,” he said.

Female learners from Amhlophe High, Cowdray Park High, Emganwini High, King George, Lobengula High, Magwegwe High, Masotsha High, Mzilikazi High, Nketa High, Sikhulile High, and Townsend High attended the career counselling expo.

Bulawayo Junior Mayoress Onenhlanhla Nyathi, Junior Minister of Women Affairs -Awakhiwe Hendson Siziba, junior Members of Parliament, and junior councillors were part of the commemorations.

During the expo, key female influencers from various businesses and council structures encouraged girls to pursue careers in the male-dominated area of engineering.

Despite certain disadvantages, BCC female engineers Sithembiso Dube and Pauline Gumede stated these were outweighed by benefits.

The exhibition also promoted gender equality and digital literacy, and mobile network operators informed girls about the many courses they could take to pursue a career in telecoms.

Girls in STEM Trust, for example, reflected on the experiences of young women who are leaders in science and technology, while also providing insight into the implications of STEM for young girls.

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