Less than 5% of programmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. Female students face numerous challenges, as academic spaces are often unsafe and unsupportive, and there remains a heavy stigma around women pursuing careers in technology.
Afro Fem Coders, founded by UC Berkeley graduate Gloria Tumushabe, aims to create a space that gives women a chance to learn programming in a safe and encouraging environment. By empowering young women to code, we are shaping leaders who will innovate and positively impact people’s lives.
Students in our program benefit from weekly coding classes, monthly guest speaker keynotes, mentorship from women pursuing engineering careers, college application guidance, and more. We approach the classes with a project-based teaching style. Developed in-house by UC Berkeley graduate Lavanya Vijayan, the hands-on curriculum in the programming language Scratch consists of building applications and games while applying Computer Science fundamentals and practicing problem solving techniques. We are also teaching programming in Python and Web Development to give the girls practical skills to build applications. Olivia Hsu, a computer science PhD student is designing a curriculum to introduce the girls to the fundamentals of machine learning in Python.
The first cohort, composed of a bright group of young Ugandan women, joined the program in March 2020, soon marking a year of being in the program, showing great progress and growth.
The students do not have wifi in their homes. Currently, Gloria sends money for cellular data to the students, out of pocket on a regular basis. The students then hotspot from their phone in order to work on their laptop.
We are currently recruiting for the next cohort, which starts in June 2021, and look forward to expanding the program’s reach to other parts of the African diaspora. Although some interested participants have access to a laptop, many do not.
For now, donations will help fund more data bundles to provide students regular internet connection and help us purchase laptops for our students who cannot afford them. In the future, we hope to set up an innovation hub where women can safely learn and a shuttle that safely transports between their home and the hub.
Check out the article Berkeley News wrote about Afro Fem Coders here and our org’s website . If you have any questions on how you can further support, you can reach us at [email redacted]. Thank you!