African women techies get their map on and build a greater community

Publisher: APCNews     CALGARY, 18 October 2012

It is not uncommon for women and girl techies to be patronised, harassed or discouraged by male colleagues. For this reason, self-organising groups of Women in Technology can provide support to each other and help further their skills in a safe environment.

One such self-organised group is the AsikanaNetwork, part of Lusaka’s main Technology and innovation hub, BongoHive. Here, Zambia’s techies – technology enthusiasts, experts and entrepreneurs meet to share ideas, work collaboratively and sometimes even get up to some mischief. Women and girls are a minority in this group, which is why Ella Mbewe, Chisenga Muyoya and Regina Mtonga decided to form the AsikanaNetwork – so that they could empower the young women who entered this male dominated and sometimes hostile world of technology.

“We felt it would be a great way to increase the visibility of talented women in technology across Africa,” explains Muyoya. By identifying sister organisations in Africa, the Asikana network could could grow and provide mutual support between Africa’s Women in Technology organisations.

“But male counterparts are challenging their self-organising, claiming they are “discriminatory” and separatist”?? “Men generally don’t expect to get IT support from women, and as a result they tend to be somewhat sceptic about us,” says Mtonga. “Working in tech is challenging for girls because of negative stereotypes. Males generally think girls are incapable of fulfilling their IT duties competently,” adds Mbewe.

But according to Muyoya, Grrl Geeks are beginning to change the perceptions of women in tech in the media, the workplace and in the home. Having benefited from sharing experience and ideas with #Akirachix and #WITUganda, sister organisations that inspired the creation of the AsikanaNetwork, Mbewe, Muyoya and Mtonga set up the map so that they could find out what other women in tech organisations across Africa are up to in terms of projects and initiatives.

Any tech initiative led by women can be added to the map. “We also encourage the smaller projects being run by NGOs and the public sector to add their footprint,” urges Muyoya. Simply to go the map and click on “Submit a report” and enter the contact details of any initiative you would like to add to the map.

“It is our hope that the map can serve as a tool that will enable a greater collaboration amongst different women in tech organisations in Africa. This will lead to the development of real relationships of mutual support, information and experience sharing and bonds of solidarity. We feel that the organisations will all have a longer lasting impact if we can learn from each other” says Muyoya.

We know from personal experience how mutually beneficial it has been to network with individual women here in Lusaka. Now we want to reap the same benefits by networking at the pan-African level with Women in Tech initiatives across the continent,” says Mbewe

The WomenTechAfrica map is based on croudsourcing research using Ushahidi’s Crowdmap. Come get your map on and tell us what you are up to!

More information on Asikana Network:
Women in Technology Uganda:

Photo by Chisenga Muyoya. Used with permission.