By Mary Munyoki, Master Trainer, YTF Academy
I’ve been with YTF for about two years as a Master Trainer in Kenya, mentoring girls and helping students learn basic computer programming and hardware technology. Earlier this month, I jumped at the chance to represent the Kenya YTF office at an eSkills4Girls meetup in Kigali, Rwanda, joined by an inspiring group of digital training peers from 30 countries across the continent.
Even for someone already working in the technology field, the meetup was an eye opener that brought valuable insights to my work. It was a great chance to foster networking with representatives like myself from organizations in different countries, all of us working on the promotion of digital skills for girls.
The event opened with a general session on the gender gap and technology, something YTF is very familiar with and constantly driving to address. We discussed barriers to equal opportunities in technology, such as access to devices and higher education, cultural stereotypes, self confidence in women, and the working environment. The conversation solidified my understanding that bridging the gender gap in technology is key to better jobs for women, quality education, and empowered political participation among others.
As the meet-up transitioned to smaller working groups, I had the privilege of being the resource person for a design thinking workshop in partnership with Christian Vanizette, co-founder of Makesense.org.
The session was a practical learning experience, mixed with inspiring examples from my work with YTF. Integrating design thinking at YTF Academy in Kenya has always been my tactic in the trainings and workshops, and I love the chance to build on my work and get new ideas every time I train the girls. I shared my experiences as a Master Trainer with the eSkills4Girls group, describing projects accomplished through design thinking and how I use design thinking in my work.
It was encouraging to see how impressed the session attendees were with how I utilized design thinking to create projects that are helpful to society. I could tell my fellow attendees were motivated by our work at YTF, and they reported being ready to employ design thinking techniques back at their organizations.
Design thinking has always been my passion, so this event was a special treat for me. This process to strategically solve problems is powerful and helps bring ideas into realization, making sure the final product is appropriate and effective. I am proud to be a trainer at YTF and to share our work to help other organizations implement similar strategies. I can already see the ripple affect of what we do at YTF Academy Kenya – we’re motivating the girls, instilling in them a positive attitude and the right mindset to create satisfactory solutions to the problems of world.
Just as Nelson Mandela described education as “the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” I believe technology that encompasses design thinking can also make an incredible difference. Many girls or women that I encounter haven’t built the self-confidence to act on their ideas. And when they do act, we often see a process of attempts and failures that ultimately stop someone from being successful. Design thinking layers on a process that guides a person from an idea to a successful result, serving as a proven method to help bring more women into the fold of technology innovations.
I left the eSkills4Girls meet-up with new motivation. I am looking forward to having a technology hub equipped with 3D printers and open source technology hardware, not only in Nairobi but all over Kenya and eventually across the world. New ideas like a mobile wireless computer lab struck my mind while at the event, and I can’t wait to use my design thinking experience to create technology education solutions for the future.