Growing up, male students were automatically deemed better than their female counterparts in the sciences and technical subjects, a prejudice I resented at school since I wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt by students and teachers, even though I worked hard. So, when I received the acceptance email from the African Girls Can Code Initiative in the heat of the pandemic last year, I felt vindicated.
Before attending the two-week camp, I had no idea what to expect but was surprised that after 10 days of coding, I had learnt a lot about the marvels of technology such as the role of Artificial Intelligence in detecting waste in water bodies and the use of computer software in designing embroidery patterns. One of the projects in camp even involved my co-designing a beautiful dress with green flowers and elegant, slanting stripes at the bottom.
In the final week, we were required to identify a problem related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and find a tech-driven solution. Attendees from across Africa were split into groups of five, with some participating online. My group, christened “Wonder Women,” decided to focus on maternal mortality. I had a special connection to the project because pregnant family members have either suffered or died from inadequate resources.
My team developed an app called Maternal-aid, which is connected to a waistband and has a contraction sensor and GPS monitor that relay the wearer’s vital signs to designated hospitals for immediate assistance. In addition, the app provides information on the severity of the pregnant woman's condition to enable healthcare providers prioritise decisions.
The highlight of coding camp came when our project was selected as the best by the judges. For our efforts, we were each awarded laptops and promised support in terms of product development and improvements. Now, I am encouraged to pursue a career as an app developer, which will allow me to isolate and solve problems plaguing my community using tech. It’s a dream I share with many of the coding camp attendees, who are equally just as eager and motivated to shake the tech industry as we know it.
Those ten days at coding camp transformed my life in ways I still haven’t been able to compute. Aside from coding and gaining technical skill, we were instilled with leadership and communication skills. I also learnt how to pitch a business idea. In the future, I hope to start a tech company in Ethiopia that empowers the youth, especially young women. I would like to see them applying their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math in solving not just Africa’s problems, but also those of the rest of the world.