iamtheCODE: Girls in tech build a new world
Coding, Clubs, Robotics, Training, Networking, Women, Men, Boys, Girls, Private sector, Entrepreneurship
Prizes, competitions and special events, Role models and mentoring, Non-formal education and extracurricular contexts
Founded in 2016, #iamtheCODE is an ambitious initiative championed by the Senegalese British entrepreneur Mariéme Jamme. It aims to empower one million women and girls through learning to code by 2030. It is the first African-led global movement intended to mobilise governments, the private sector and investors to advance science, technology, engineering, arts/design, mathematics and entrepreneurship education.
The driving passion behind the movement is Marieme’s own experience as a child. As she says: “Not having the chance to attend school at an early age and to have an opportunity to a formative education made me start this movement. I believe strongly that we need to help correct the failure of policy makers by investing in girls and women through creative learning and technology”.
The movement contributes to the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially Goals 4, 5, 8 and 9. It focuses on broadly improving economic outcomes for girls through direct action, initially in Africa, and now more widely around the globe. iamtheCODE is now in 68 countries and has taught nearly 18,000 persons digital skills.
There are six main programmes within the #iamtheCODE movement: Digital Clubs, SDG Hackathons, wellbeing, data monitoring, pedagogy, food education and mentorship.
Digital Clubs are run in collaboration with a variety of existing centres of creative activities, such as schools, libraries and community centres. Establishing digital clubs requires a commitment to volunteer and making an impact for at least one school term (12 weeks).
At the heart of these Digital Clubs is #iamtheCODE’s Digital Wheel Curriculum. This combines nine elements: Kano (a creative computer), Code.org (providing access to computer science), Robotics, Legos, 3D printing, Alibaba Cloud (delivering on-demand computing resources), iDEA (focused on gaining industry-recognised awards), codecademy (an interactive coding platform), and littleBits (easy to use technology kits).
The SDG Hackathons aim to help girls and young women participate in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and were endorsed in 2016 by the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. In essence, they are public events during which developers, designers, hackers, students, entrepreneurs and educators gather to collaborate on projects including applications, software, hardware, data visualisation and platform solutions. The hackathons aim to create synergies between the SDGs and technology by bringing together experts in technologies and those specializing on SDG subjects. Although the focus is on girls, they also welcome boys, men and women.
The pedagogy used by #iamtheCODE has been developed in collaboration with partners and seeks to blend student-driven learning with an instructor-led approach. In particular, the methodology is guided by Sugata Mitra’s notion of a Self-Organised Learning Environment (SOLE), and the work of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
The mentorship programme aims to support women, girls and their networks, focusing on retention, measurement and encouragement. The movement’s diverse network of mentors and business leaders includes a range of women and men, from the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum to industry Experts in Technology, providing personal advice to mentees and sharing experiences.
As of October 2019, #iamtheCODE has over 25 advisors, including business leaders and children, and a network of 29 advocates and ambassadors. Corporate sponsorship and partnership provide most of the necessary financial support but individual donations are also encouraged through contributions. Its partners are all committed to delivering on the goal of 1 million women and girls being empowered through coding.
By October 2019, #iamtheCODE had reached 18,500 individuals through their Digital Clubs and Hackathons, 2,132 women and girls had used their learning methodology, and 523 creative spaces had been created for mentoring and implementation in more than 68 countries and 147 cities across Europe, South Asia, Latin America and Africa.
In recognition of her work in advancing the SDGs, Mariéme Jamme was presented with the Innovation Award at the Global Goals Awards 2017 by UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She was also named in the UK Powerlist 2017 and 2018 as one of Britain’s 100 most influential people of African and African Caribbean Heritage.
#iamtheCODE’s success so far has been based primarily around the resilience, drive, commitment and networks of its founder. One of its strengths is that it draws heavily on existing technologies and pedagogy, but combines them in a novel way, and seeks especially to focus on some of the poorest and most marginalised girls. The programme has learned that while internet connectivity is only required for some of the activities, an engaging facilitator is key to drive women and girls to think creatively and help them solve challenges.
#iamtheCODE still needs to generate more support from governments and ICT ministries to scale up its activities and deliver on the promise of empowering 1 million girls by 2030.
EQUALS Research Group. 2018. Taking stock: Data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadership. Preliminary findings of a review by the EQUALS research group. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Van der Spuy, A. and Aavriti, N. 2018. Mapping research in gender and digital technology. Melville, South Africa: Association for Progressive Communications (APC).