This week we had a chat with woman extraordinaire Baratang Miya, co-founder of GirlHype.
1.Before we get into it, how about you tell us more about yourself and how you got into tech?
I am a passionate self-taught Coder. I was introduced to coding by a young man who use to work at an internet shop. I believe in promoting women and girls’ education, I constantly speak and advocate for women, girls, and their families at conferences or any platform I get. I am the co-founder of GirlHype; an NGO we started in 2004 that empower girls through STEM, integrating: arts, science, technology, and career skills. I have extensive experience in implementing innovative global programs that provide consistent impact to both women and educators having worked with companies like Blackberry, UN Women and Mozilla. I was chosen by the US State Department’s TechWomen 2015 program and got to spend six weeks in Silicon Valley with Industry Leaders.
I also serve on the executive board of The Silicon Cape Initiative as transformation portfolio head and has contributed to education access and equity in a diversity of settings for close to fifteen years. I am also part of the Steering Committee for Women in Philanthropy in Cape Town . At the moment I am working on a program for Mozilla and UN Women forming clubs in Cape Town that educate women on how to read, write and participate on the web
2. Wow, that’s some amazing work, Now, GirlHype , how did that start?
I was introduced to web design by a friend who used to work at an internet shop. The moment I realized how easy it was and that feeling of achievement I got when I published my first website, I thought this would be the best way to empower girls. The first project of Girlhype was with the British Council Zero Carbon City (Climate Change) in 2004 where I facilitated webdesign workshops for girls. A month before that I could not code at all, then my husband asked two of his friends to come and teach me how to code. Though it was daunting, I had to learn the basics as fast as I could because I had eight workshops to do for the British Council.
3. So why girls, and why technology specifically?
I was part of the group that formed Women’s Movement Society at UCT. I was extremely conscious about women’s issues and I really believed that if we target girls before they become women with lots of societal influences, the educational empowerment cannot be taken away from them.
Technology is a tool that can empower and destroy women. There is not enough online content that is relevant to women and girls and I believed that women have to write their own stories. Having studied Marketing it made sense to me that the media being the massage and the messenger women should use it as a tool to communicate their issues.
I also used to hate it that when we were doing first year at UCT, 90% of the hand written essays came from black people. The digital divide was huge and we needed to close it. I couldn’t understand why there is so much resources one kilometer away from the people, however they had no access to them and the children from previously disadvantaged communities don’t have these resources at home.
Alan Kay – “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”
4. so what does GirlHype look like in 20, 60 or even 100 years?
Patriachy and lack of diversity is a very big elephant in the room. Its hard to talk about it as an individual.At the moment we live in a society where the Tech space is WHITE and MALE. That needs to be transformed. The space needs to be inclusive and reflect diversity of the country. Due to that I believe women still needs safe spaces to learn, create and be confident enough to participate in the web. There is lack of African content that is very relevant to African women and that can only be changed by us training them and giving skills of how to participate in the space.
5. As you are aware, this will be a segment part of a bigger series titled: Africa, Tech and he Girls. We believe that girls and women have a lot to offer within the STEM fields. For decades, they have been marginalized and to a point ignored and excluded from economic opportunities.However, in recent times we are seeing an increase in initiatives led by people such as yourself and even though some good strides are being made, we’ve found that these ‘social ventures’ are working in seclusion instead of playing a part of the whole. What are your thoughts?
We all need to come together and form a massive movement that will impact women and girls. Though we are all needed because we are approaching and eating an elephant one bite at a time.
6. The problem, we believe is that how can you play ‘a part of the whole’ when we haven’t even defined what the “whole” is. Yes, we want Gender Equality. But what exactly does that look like?
Gender Equality in my eyes would be an ideal where women are given equal opportunities to men. They are being respected for being a women and what comes with it. Women don’t have to change who they are just to be accepted by the society. We want men who are going to see women as their equal and respect their views and opinions, and not be threatened by women success.
Thank you so much Baratang for your insightful views, we want to continue this important dialog and get more women and girls to not only see technology as an enabler but a means for them to reach for their dreams!