Youth Innovation Challenge Winners Mentor Next Generation of Tech-Savvy Girls in South Sudan

Nov 13, 2017

The GoGirls, their students, and UNDP Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen pose after the “Time-To-Shine” ICT Competition at the French Institute in Juba, South Sudan. Photo: UNDP

GoGirls ICT Initiative awarded six students with school fees for one year as prizes for their participation in a year-long mentorship programme for the school children on basic computer and programming skills. The ceremony was part of the final event of the GoGirls’ “Time-To-Shine” ICT Competition held on 11 November at the French Institute at the University of Juba.

The “Time-To-Shine” project was the third place winning proposal of UNDP’s Youth Innovation Challenge for Peace, held originally in December 2016.

The ceremony was attended by representatives from the French Institute, UNESCO, the French Embassy and UNDP.

“The GoGirls’ Time-To-Shine mentoring initiative is just the type of innovative effort needed in South Sudan to move forward on the pathway towards inclusive and sustainable development,” said UNDP Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen, during his keynote remarks at the ceremony. “To the GoGirls, you will always have a partner in UNDP and we will find ways to continue supporting your project.”

The GoGirls-ICT Initiative is founded by fellow young South Sudanese women, and aims to engage, educate and empower women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based fields through trainings and mentorship.

The Youth Innovation Challenge for Peace encouraged South Sudanese youth to find creative solutions and innovative ideas to engage youth in peacebuilding and as agents of change. Led by UNDP’s Community Security and Arms Control project, the competition fielded 124 ideas from more than 200 young people.

The three winners were selected to pilot their ideas with seed funding and technical support from UNDP and partners.

As part of the “Time-To-Shine” ICT Competition the GoGirls trained five mentors (university students) who collectively supported 15 school children (14 female, 1 male) through weekly Saturday meetings, focused on building computer literacy and to introduce them to basic programming skills. The school children learned to use Scratch, a platform to create stories using graphics and animation.

During the final event, four teams of school children presented their Scratch stories for a panel of judges. The topics of the stories were selected by the students themselves, and focused on domestic violence awareness, student class behaviour, preventing cholera, and protecting young girls from early marriage and HIV/AIDS.

Yine Yenki, co-founder of GoGirls, was one of the UNDP-sponsored delegation members who attended the recent YouthConnekt Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The event enabled GoGirls ICT Initiative to share their experiences and interact with other leaders and experts making change in their countries.

Prior to the presentation of certificates and awards, Ms. Yenki highlighted the determination of her students and the mentors for persevering through challenges and completing the programme. Many of the students come to the Saturday morning sessions by foot, and still arrived well before the 9am start time, she shared. The students have to share a limited amount of laptops and push through power outages through unconventional ways, which adds to the length of time it takes to master the skills the GoGirls are trying to share. At one point, after some of the Scratch projects had already been completed, one of the GoGirls’ laptops was stolen. The team managed to recreate their story in time for the presentations on Saturday.

Despite the challenges, the classes were heralded by the teachers and guests of honor as an important opportunity for the young girls and boys to obtain critical modern skills in information technology for a digital world. Speakers complimented the commitment of the students to attend the sessions, and commended their parents for supporting their involvement.

The students presenting their projects represented two secondary schools, Juba Commercial and Juba Girls secondary schools and two primary schools, Atlabara and Munuki East primary schools. In addition to their school fees, each participating student received a book bag of study materials. Head teachers from each school were also on hand to receive prizes of stationary supplies, for their continued support in encouraging their students to explore education opportunities outside of the classroom.

Going forward, GoGirls ICT Initiative wants to expand their programme to include more students and more mentors, explore options for securing a venue with more reliable power and internet supply, and secure additional laptops.

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