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Teaching Ghana rural and slum girls how to code

January 07th, 2020
topic:Women's rights
by:Bob Koigi
located in:Ghana
tags:Africa, ICT, Regina Honu, STEM coding technology, women's rights

In slums and schools across Ghana, girls have always struggled with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, fields as entrenched beliefs and societal dictates empower boys to pursue such courses.

As more girls struggle to change the narrative by taking on the male-dominated sectors, they continue to receive mentorship and inspiration from Regina Honu, a tech-enthusiast who has had to ward off numerous challenges in her pursuit to establish her tech company. She is actively involved in building confidence among Ghana girls to embrace STEM while using technology for human growth and finding homegrown solutions to Ghana’s problems.

Having graduated as one of the top software developers in her class at the Asheshi University, Regina would later find a job at an international bank where she was the only woman in the IT department. But despite championing revolutionary innovations she would face hurdles in a male-dominated environment. She eventually quit. The job was simply too frustrating, and she moved to a small local bank. After a six month stint in the banking sector she decided to start her own company. Armed with only a table, a $530 capital and conviction, she started Soronko Solutions in her parents’ house.

The company has metamorphosed into a powerhouse using tech to foster social development.

But the greatest inclination of the company is its focus on training girls to take up active role in ICTs. This, through offering them space and tools that allow them move from being consumers to creators of technology. She runs Tech Needs Girls, an initiative that is targeting girls across the country through mentorship and training to take up courses and careers in technology.

She has also established Soronko Academy, the first coding and human centred design school in West Africa targeting children and the youth. “We are building a generation of scientists & technologists from Ghana who live with various problems and have the tools to solve the problems they see everyday, through an interactive supplementary educational curriculum which involves interacting with a STEM web and mobile learning platform, conducting real experiments, and competing in an annual innovation prize. To ensure that we achieve our goal we convert the STEM skills into products and business through an apprenticeship program”, the company says.

Regina has also been actively involved in running a project that has introduced deaf girls at the State Deaf School in Ghana to technology by coming up with applications that allow them to communicate with the rest of society. One such app converts text to sign language. Through Soronko, Regina is also developing a series of applications targeting the community, particularly people with disabilities, in making life easy for them while enticing more girls and women to embrace technology.

To spread the STEMs gospel she has enlisted the support of over 90 volunteers drawn from universities and corporates and more than 110 mentors who are engineers and computer scientists in a project that has now reached over 3,500 mentees across 8 regions in Ghana. Plans are in the offing to expand the project to other countries with Burkina Faso being the first. To spread the curriculum to Francophone Africa, the curriculum has been translated into French.

Esther, one of the beneficiaries of the Soronko Academy has sickle cell anaemia. Having no tech knowledge when she first joined, she was taught how to code and now runs a foundation and an online campaign meant to create awareness and address issues around the genetic disease.

Other beneficiaries of the academy have gone on to create digital platforms ranging from online advertising for small businesses, websites to share spiritual messages and culinary blogs.

Regina has been recognised globally for this dedication. Notable awards included the Aspen Institute New Voices Fellowship, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, named among 12 inspirational women driving the STEM Agenda by CNN, young entrepreneur of the year by the GPA Awards from Africa 2.0 and one of the six women making an impact on tech in Africa.

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Ghana
Girls continue to receive mentorship and inspiration from Regina Agyare, a tech-enthusiast who has had to ward off numerous challenges in her pursuit to establish her tech company.
But the greatest inclination of the company is its focus on training girls to take up active role in ICTs.
Having no tech knowledge when she first joined, she was taught how to code and now runs a foundation and an online campaign meant to create awareness and address issues around the genetic disease.