Web design skills pull girls out of poverty

Latifa Noor freelance website developer based in Mombasa during past Digital Opportunity Trust conference [David ] Njaaga,Standard]

Sometime in June 2016, six young female university students visited Hassan Joho Girls Secondary School in Utange, Mombasa County, to give a talk.

Latifa Noor, who was then counting days to her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams, says the visit changed her life and gave her hope for the future.

Noor, now 20 years old, says before the visit, her future seemed bleak as she came from a poor background.

Having been brought up by a struggling single mother, Noor’s chances of pursuing further studies after secondary education were slim.

Today, Noor is a freelance web developer, earning about Sh28,000 per month. It is a skillshe learnt from the six girls who visited her school over two years ago.

When they visited Noor’s school in 2016, the girls - Aisha Abubakar, Ruth Kaveke, Joan Nabusoba, Farida Mwikali, Dorine Kamau and Lilian Kimeu - were students at the Technical University of Mombasa.

They are now the directors of Pwani Tecknowgalz, an information technology organisation they founded in 2016 and to empower girls in the coastal region to embrace digital literacy and to use the knowledge in solving problems they face in the society.

“They spoke a lot about Internet and how one can make a living by learning computer skills. I decided to join their digital platform after my examinations,” says Noor.

It was not until November 2017 when the directors of the organisation contacted her.

“They trained and mentored me in computer and web design skills,” she says. The website of Pwani Tecknowgalz has served as a platform where young girls in schools and some in colleges and universities share ideas on how to venture into the digital space.

Embracing digital literacy

More than 350 secondary school girls from 11 schools at the Coast actively use the system, especially during holidays.

Aisha Abubakar, who co-founded the organisation with Ruth Kaveke, was a panelist during an international social innovation forum, the Digital Opportunity Trust (Dot) unconference, where innovators from 12 countries had a three-day interaction from October 17-19.

A similar event was held in Rwanda last year and Noor was among those who attended. She was mentored and allowed to showcase her abilities.

Dot founder and CEO Janet Longmore, who has a history of championing women’s inclusivity in the digital space, was one of the panelists. Also in the panel was Kenya’s Dot country director Esther Gathigi.

Longmore said she was impressed by the rate at which Kenyan girls are embracing digital literacy and using the skills to solve problems they face in their communities.

 “Kenya has made huge strides in digital literacy but there are vulnerable groups, especially girls, who need to be included in the digital transformation,” said Longmore.

Noor, who scored a C in her KCSE, is yet to join a formal college, but she is using her digital innovation skills to liberate herself and her family from poverty.

From her income, she supports her mother as well as her brother and sister who are both in primary school. She is also saving part of her earnings for the future.

“The network I have created with other innovators through the Pwani Tecknowgalz has enabled me to be independent and changed my perception towards education,” says Noor.  

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