Our volunteer Linn Samuelson meets Program Management Associate, Sylvia Wasike, at the UN Women’s country office in Kenya and has discussions about their work on equality and digitalization.
Can you tell us about your role here at the UN Women Kenya Country Office?
I work for young people and digitalization. UN Women has offered a great platform to deepen my knowledge and skills in empowering women and girls. It has been very exciting for me in my role in UN Women.
How is the access to technology in Kenya?
There are very glaring differences between urban and rural areas. I easily know how to use TikTok but a rural person doesn’t even have a smartphone. When you look at the root causes, it’s poverty that leads to the issue of access. Other differences are digital literacy and the vulnerability that comes with safety and security with women online. A rural girl hasn’t received the knowledge of online safety and what precautions to take.
What projects are you currently working on connected to digitalization and equality?
We have been supporting some critical areas of youth and digitalization. I’m happy to report that in our new strategic report 2023-2026, as part of our lobbying and strategizing with young people, we were able to include digital technology.
After covid, there has been a lot of need for digitalization, especially in the African context, for women and girls. How do we bridge the gender digital divide? People living in the rural areas are left behind when it comes to access to technology and usage of technology. But there are also opportunities.
Young women are underrepresented in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] courses. In a pilot project we did last year, we inspired girls to take up STEM courses. At the end of phase one we found that there was a 21% increase of girls who were interested to pursue STEM. Many said they didn’t think they could, they were told not to pick physics because they can’t do it, it’s for the boys. But out of the program, they realized that they actually can do this. The response from just that pilot was tremendous.
Kenya has been chosen with some other countries to take up the African Girl Code Initiative. It’s helping the girls to have the necessary skills in the area of IT. We’re trying to bridge that gap through the AGCI, giving them the necessary skills, connecting them to mentors in the ICT world.
How do you envision the future of Kenya?
I think the future is bright. We just need to do the work. I would see it in the results of our projects; young women who can be reached and empowered. For example, a girl through her small medium enterprise or a young farmer who is able to have some training on technological tools and skills that have been able to lift her up and her business. I think it’s more than possible.
A hugh thanks from UN Women Sweden to Sylvia and her team at UN Women Kenya for sharing your insights and for your important work for gender equality and women´s rights.
Photo: Hedda Heinonen