Women have a decisive role to play in shaping the digital transformation and ensuring that it contributes to a better and fairer future, yet they remain significantly underrepresented in the digital field. The underlying causes are diverse, ranging from harmful stereotypes to educational barriers. Globally, women are 12.5 percent less likely to use the Internet compared to men, which results in a limited capacity to benefit from the opportunities created by the digital world.
While the solutions to close the gender digital divide need to come from many fronts, the first step is to create awareness on the challenges that women face in the digital environment, and to give visibility to the female trailblazers who are overcoming such obstacles to lead the digital transformation on their own terms.
In this spirit, the AU-EU Digital for Development (D4D) Hub launched the online communications campaign #GirlsinD4D. Contributing to the celebration of International Girls in ICT Day on 28 April, our goal is to put the spotlight on inspiring young women from Africa and Europe who are working tirelessly to leverage digital technologies and innovations to improve people’s lives in both continents.
We received 195 nominations for this campaign – evidence of the many strong-willed and fearless women who are breaking barriers to achieve their dreams. Our admiration and respect go to all of them. The ten selected nominees represent the diversity of experiences, skills, and circumstances that drive women to pursue careers in the digital field. By no means we mean to undermine the other candidates’ outstanding merits.
The #GirlsinD4D are engineers, entrepreneurs, social scientists, and graphic designers. Most of them found their passion for technology at a very early age, and their own lives have been transformed by opportunities they found online. What they all share is a determination to help other women succeed in the digital field and to contribute to sustainable development through digital solutions.
Meet the ten #GirlsinD4D:
Anny Sybille Izere, Burundi: “Digital skills can empower refugee women”
Anny Sybille Izere is a 27-year-old communications specialist and resident of the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda since 2015. In the wake of school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, she founded Her Dreams Count, an organisation that delivers online courses on digital skills to adolescent girls in her community. According to Anny Sybille, learning how to build websites and coding has helped young refugee women to feel a sense of purpose and increase their employability.
All girls and women should be able to participate in the digital world and to benefit from the opportunities that it offers, she says. “Everything these days is digital… the future is digital. We should do everything in our power to make sure that refugee women don’t stay behind and can also belong to that world."
Aminata Dembélé, Mali: “Digital technologies can help us connect and help each other”
Aminata Dembélé is a Malian network engineer currently pursuing a PhD in telecommunications at the Pan-African University in Kenya. For the past four years, she has worked in the development of apps that contribute to address some of her country’s most pressing issues, from corruption to the fight against COVID-19.
Aminata is also the founder of WomenTech Mali, a community of girls and women with an interest in the ICT and STEM fields. Its purpose is to provide mentorship, networking, training, and visibility opportunities for women to thrive in the digital environment. “In a world that tell us women that we can’t become whatever we want, we need to encourage each other and create safe spaces for women to learn and exchange,” she says.
Eden Tadesse, Ethiopia: “I don’t want to be a simple spectator of the digital transformation”
Eden Tadesse is a journalist, social entrepreneur, and digital innovator from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At age 25, is the co-founder of Invicta, a platform that connects refugees and internally displaced youth with online courses, skills development training, and remote work opportunities. She also serves as the CEO of Ambitious.Africa, an NGO that connects African and European youth to promote innovation and collaboration. In her free time, she produces podcasts to give visibility to women in STEM and is writing a book on youth empowerment.
As an IT graduate and technology enthusiast, Eden is passionate about helping people find new opportunities online. “My purpose is to serve the world through technology,” she says.
Linda Du Roy, France: “We need more female role models”
Linda Du Roy is a French citizen of Rwandan-Burundian descent. She currently works as a United Nations Volunteer at the Regional Office of the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) in Dakar, Senegal. In this role, she supports fundraising for projects in West and Central Africa aimed at increasing financial inclusion through digital technologies. Her ambition is to build a career in the UN system and to continue promoting digital solutions for sustainable development.
According to Linda, having supportive female bosses has been very helpful to kick-start her career: “I have been very lucky to work with inspiring women who have encouraged me to pursue my ambitions.” In this sense, she highlights the importance of having more women in leadership positions.
Anna-Laura Seifermann, Germany: “We must fix tech’s gender bias”
Anna-Laura Seifermann is a 28-year-old professional from Germany living in Uganda, where she works for Viamo – a global enterprise that helps NGOs, government agencies and businesses to communicate with remote communities through mobile phones. The thing that she likes the most about her work is leveraging technologies – basic mobile phones in this case – to reach underserved populations and to enable them to participate in the digital society. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she was involved in a project to deliver remote training to healthcare workers.
For Girls in ICT Day, she calls for more representation of women in the design of digital solutions: “Technology is inherently gender biased because it is mostly created by men. This is very problematic because it can perpetuate inequalities. One of the solutions is to include more women in the creation of products and services so female users’ needs are taken into account.”
Élodie Akotossode, Benin: “Inclusion starts with education”
Élodie Akotossode is a software developer from Benin and the founder of Women EdTech, a women-focused tech hub that offers training in programming, design, mobile and web application development, business management, and marketing, as well as professional integration services. Since August 2021, she is also the President of the association Women in Tech Benin, which aims to create awareness on the gender digital divide and to encourage more women to pursue careers in the tech sector.
Élodie is passionate about education and mentorship of young women: “When I started by career as a software developer, I did not have any support of this kind. I founded Women EdTech to help other women access technical training and build the skills they need to get into the digital sector.”
Janet Boakye, Ghana: “I want to help other women benefit from digital entrepreneurship as I have done”
Janet Boakye is the Partnerships Manager for Developers in Vogue, a Ghanaian company that provides IT training to women.
From a young age, Janet became the main breadwinner in her family. As such, she started an online business to sell beads and jewellery. Different trainings in web development, digital marketing, and graphic design allowed her to better promote her products and reach new customers.
What she likes the most about her current job is that it gives her the opportunity to help other women to also benefit from the opportunities created by the digital transformation. “My own experience has encouraged me to become an advocate for the empowerment of women through digital platforms,” she says.
Arlette Assi, Côte d’Ivoire: “Don’t be afraid of venturing into male-dominated fields”
Arlette Assi is a cybersecurity expert from Côte d’Ivoire, currently working as security operations engineer for a mobile money company. She is passionate about fighting cybercrime, data protection, and safe transactions. In her field, she has grown used to working in male-dominated spaces – she is the only woman in her team – although it has not always been easy to defy stereotypes in her society. “This should not discourage other capable women from pursuing careers in fields that have conventionally been considered for men,” she says.
Hoping to empower other women succeed in the ICT field, Arlette also works as project manager for D-Clic in Côte d’Ivoire, a pilot initiative by the Organisation internationale de la francophonie that offers digital skills courses to young people in ten francophone countries.
Mumbe Mwangangi, Kenya: “Digital solutions can bring positive change to our communities”
Mumbe Mwangangi is a 27-year-old social entrepreneur and women’s rights and education activist. Recently selected to join the African Union’s African Young Women Leaders Fellowship Programme, she is also the founder of Twi Vamwe, a community-based organisation in Kitui, Kenya, which aims to create opportunities for youth. Moreover, she is the co-founder of Nyansapo AI, an app that uses artificial intelligence to help teachers assess the literacy level of learners.
Mumbe is convinced that technology can bring positive change to communities, help solve social problems, and empower grassroots organisations. This is why she serves as a mentor to other women seeking to develop apps that address community needs.
Latifa Yari, Niger: “Becoming an advocate for women in tech changed my life”
Latifa Yari is a software engineer from Niger currently working for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as a data consultant. She also serves as the President of the NGO Hope Sahel and the association Girls in ICT Niger.
Latifa’s work as an app developer has been widely recognised by international organisations such as Smart Africa, the European Union and the United Nations. These experiences have empowered her to become an advocate for women’s participation in ICT and to boost her own career.
For Girls in ICT Day, Latifa calls for more support for women who lack capacity and resources to achieve their aspirations.