Rwanda: Ms. Geek - Celebrating Three Years of Success

Computing

When Ms. Geek was launched three years ago, few believed how far it would go in inspiring girls to join technology field, and also pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Fast forward 2016; the annual initiative has become one of the most successful initiatives in empowering the girl child in ICT sector.

Unlike the glitz and glamour that characterize beauty contests, this competition was designed to inspire Rwandan girls to be a part of problem solving for the country using technology.

The contest focuses on developing ICT solutions that solve societal problems and these are addressed through newly created applications.

Initiated by members of Girls in ICT, Ms. Geek also aims at expanding girls' innovation and critical thinking skills.

Claudette Nirere, one of the organisers of the contest, says that Ms. Geek is a platform for young girls to use technology positively and be problem solvers.

"Our hope as Girls in ICT is that young Rwandan girls will start considering STEM as a career," Nirere says.

"The quality of submissions has tremendously improved and the number of applications has increased. More schools are willing to support their students to apply and we definitely are being recognised for empowering young girls to join STEM fields," Nirere says.

However, not all schools have been reached and organisers are thinking of possible projects or ideas.

Ms. Geek has given girls a platform to express themselves openly; they are given opportunities to step out of their comfort zone, and explore what the STEM field has to offer with hope that they become role models for the younger generations. The level of creativity and innovation that's seen today can only increase.

Nirere says, "We have seen winners developing a much stronger sense of self-esteem and confidence and are aware of the responsibility bestowed on them when given the title. They are given the opportunity to think creatively on the use of technology and are willing to go the extra mile to have their idea or project implemented."

The dream of expansion

Last year, organisers of the contest had plans of expanding the contest to other countries like Uganda and Kenya; this dream is still very much alive.

"The dream to cut across other countries is still alive; but we believe that there's still so much to do here at home before we go regional. There are still so many girls around the country that we have not yet reached and we are seeking partnerships to be able to get to every single one of them.

In the meantime, however, should there be interest anywhere else in the world to organise Ms. Geek activities, we will be happy to support in any way we can," Nirere adds.

The Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, applauds the Ms. Geek project as a very productive one, saying that it's a way of encouraging girls to go for IT professions.

He says that the competition increases the girls' ability to compete globally for IT opportunities and encourages more of them to join the ICT sector.

"The ministry supports and sponsors the contest and we want it to grow. So far, we have a national vision of expansion and hopes of taking it to other countries will definitely be set, but that depends on the organisers. It's something that Africa needs," Nsengimana adds.

The third edition of Ms. Geek will take place on Saturday April 30. Out of more than 130 applicants, five were selected and will pitch their ideas in front of a jury. Read the full story here: