Tomorrow April 27 the world celebrates the International Day of Girls in ICT. This is a global initiative that promotes and encourages girls and young women to pursue careers in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
The International Day of Girls in ICT raises awareness about the importance of gender equality in ICT, encourages girls to develop digital skills, and provides opportunities for them to explore the diverse and exciting career possibilities in the technology field. It serves as a reminder of the need to remove barriers and create an inclusive environment that fosters gender diversity in the ICT sector, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and innovative future.
In line with this, we are excited to feature Dorcus Litunya – a 23-year-old Woman In Tech who has not only embraced technology herself, but is also mentoring other girls to do the same. Dorcus’s journey into tech and engineering started way back in Primary school in Machakos, but it was Kenya High School that became the most formative and cementing place. It was here that a teacher floated to her the idea of forming an engineering club since she was always good in sciences, math, and physics. The club came to be and in 2016, they registered for the Safaricom Technovation – a Safaricom Women in Tech initiative that aims to empower girls and families to identify challenges in their communities and create tech and engineering solutions.
Fast forward to 2019, Dorcus joined Safaricom Women in Tech as a mentor for the Technovation program where she has so far mentored 6 teams. To her pride and joy, three out of the six teams she has mentored are globally recognized. The girls have also won awards such as the Social Impact award which recognizes teams whose innovations would have a huge impact on their communities and solved problems around FGM, water supply, and climate change. She’s also very proud that many of the girls she mentors end up taking ICT courses after fourth form.
Dorcus is that passionate about mentorship because she’s a product of the same and it is her way of giving back to the community. For instance, it is a Women in Engineering conference she attended that sealed her decision to become an electrical engineer. As for tech, her mentors over at Safaricom Women in Tech are Asha Panyako, Ketty Ammy, and Velma Ngoni. She’s grateful to have had such opportunities and she does not take them for granted. She mostly mentors girls between ages 8 and 19 in marginalized areas, with Samburu, Kibera and Lamu as examples. Her biggest wish is that these girls will prosper in tech careers and pay it forward by mentoring others. This way she will have been part of a community that increases the uptake of STEM subjects and jobs among women.
For her this is a personal journey and she’s in it for life. She’s passionate about creating opportunities for competent women who will climb the career lander on merit. With unconscious and systemic biases, there is still a huge problem in women representation in tech and engineering and she wants to correct this.
Dorcus’s work is not without challenges. Personally, she has not faced anything insurmountable because she’s good at her stuff and she’s very passionate. Out in the field on the other hand, she and her team are often faced with biases that still make girls shy away from technology, and lack of resources like computers. In a few instances there are concerns about security depending on the area they are visiting but they are well catered for and so far nothing has befallen them.
How does she go about her mentorship work?
First, she takes time to create an open and friendly channel between herself and the girls. Once they feel they can trust her, they come out of their cocoons and she’s able to talk to them not just about tech and engineering but also life. To get to as many girls as possible, she works closely with community representatives on the ground as points of contact.
To girls who would like to pursue STEM courses, Dorcus wishes to encourage them to join the club. She advises them to block the noises and go for their dreams, and if possible get a mentor.
“You have significant control over your life. Just start and you’ll connect the dots along the way.” – Dorcus.