FRI has two creative and passionate women working as information communication technology (ICT) officers in the field, helping to train broadcasters on new ways to incorporate technologies into their radio shows in order to make radio a two-way communication tool. These women were both trained in computer science — a field that attracts few women. Hear Viola Nuwaha, radio and ICT officer in Uganda, explain the challenges women face in the technology field to FRI volunteer Megan Stacey.
Viola Nuwaha and Alimata Konate, radio and ICT development officers in Uganda and Burkina Faso, faced many challenges as young women entering into the STEM field — the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics that is typically dominated by men. But they enjoy the creativity and the challenges of studying and working with technology.
“I look at it as something anyone can do, you just have to set your mind to it. I don’t focus on it as being mostly only men,” said Viola of the technology field.
Viola was 10 years old when she first sat down in front of a computer. She was visiting her mother’s office and sat down to play so she didn’t interrupt her. Her love of computers grew as a teenager, when she realized the power technology holds.
Attracting women to the technology and science fields has long been a challenge. In movies and television shows, “nerds” and “geeks” are typically portrayed as men. This leaves few role models for women and little opportunity for them to see technology as career choice.
Yet it was a television show that first introduced Viola to the idea of pursuing a career in computer science. While watching the popular television show 24, Viola’s attention was drawn to one of the characters. “I just loved that the guy behind the computer had power and yet all he did was sit at his computer.”
Just like that, an idea was born.
Alimata’s interest in computers and technology also developed in high school, encouraging her to pursue it in college. She saw it as an opportunity to challenge herself and be creative, so she fought for a place at the best computer school in Burkina Faso. “It was not easy because it is an area that rarely interests females,” said Alimata.
In Canada, just 40 per cent of graduates in the STEM field are women. In Burkina Faso, the ratio is lower. When she began her classes, Alimata was just one of two girls. Supportive parents and mentors can encourage young women interesting in the STEM field, which is why Alimata and Viola are supportive of female broadcasters and technology students.
As radio and ICT officers for FRI, Viola and Alimata explore the creative uses for radio, mobile phones and computer apps. By combining these technologies, radio can become a two-way communication tool that, with support from Viola and Alimata, allows broadcasters to hear from their farming audience.
This job is both creative and technical, allowing Viola and Alimata to push technology in new directions and share its power with others. “You never stop learning and I still marvel at the challenges,” Alimata said.