The International Girls in ICT Day was established to ensure that the ICT train leaves no one behind, let alone girls, the choice of Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement as the venue for this year’s activities couldn’t have been more apt.
The event held on April 28, 2022, was a culmination of week-long activities that included career guidance and consumer awareness sessions, and a mini-robotics training camp involving 130 girls from five (5) schools located in the five (5) zones of the vast refugee camp. The three-day robotics training was conducted in partnership with Fundi Bots, an organization whose mission is to accelerate science learning through skills training.
Girls in ICT Day, an initiative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), was established to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and ICT. This year, the theme was, “Access and Safety”, underlining the importance of not just securing access to ICTs but also ensuring safety in gainfully using them.
The key objective of the commemoration, which also resonates with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on gender equality and bridging the gender digital divide, is to position girls and young women to harness ICTs for their personal and community development goals.
In his remarks, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Yumbe district, Mathew Vuni Vuyaya, commended UCC for choosing Yumbe to host the event, thereby highlighting the plight of the Bidi Bidi refugee community.
He revealed that Yumbe district has the largest population of Ugandan nationals in the Northern Uganda region, while Bidi Bidi, home to 270,000 refugees, is the biggest camp in Uganda and second biggest in the world – after Kutapalong refugee camp in Bangladesh.
“By your coming here, we are able to tell the world that we are hosting the largest population of refugees in Uganda,” the Deputy RDC told the gathering, adding that ICTs would potentially uplift the refugees’ standard of living.
Mr. Vuvaya applauded the cause of greater participation of girls and young women in the ICT sector and expressed happiness with the students’ innovations on display, saying that as a former teacher of science he was impressed.
The Acting Executive Director of UCC, Eng. Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, who was accompanied by the Director of Research and IT Christine Mugimba, and other UCC staff, thanked the Yumbe district leadership and the local community for the warm hospitality accorded to her team. Encouraging the girls to take advantage of the growing field of ICTs to improve their chances of employment and brighten their career prospects, the Ag. Executive Director freely mingled with the youngsters, exchanging jokes, and posing for photos throughout her stay in Bidi Bidi.
“You are going to need ICT skills in the world of tomorrow,” she told them. “Go on with your careers as nurses, engineers, pilots, etc. but don’t leave ICTs behind.”
Emphasizing the Government position that no one should be left behind in the ICT revolution, Eng. Sewankambo said: “It doesn’t matter that you live in camps, ICTs are there for you. You are part of the global community.” However, the Executive Director was quick to point out that ICTs must be used responsibly to achieve noble objectives, hence this year’s Girls in ICT theme, “Access and Safety”.
She said that girls and young women cannot make the most of the benefits that ICTs are capable of, unless the digital spaces are safe enough for them to navigate. Eng. Sewankambo therefore implored the girls to exercise safe and responsible internet use to guard against falling prey to cyber bullying, child trafficking, identity theft and exposure to inappropriate content, among other cyber threats.
Representing the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Mr. Richard Acidri thanked UCC for engaging the girls in the refugee settlement and called for sensitization of their male counterparts against involvement in acts that might lead to girls dropping out of school.
After showcasing their best innovations, which mostly depicted social services that are lacking in their community, such as adequate transport (helicopter, jet, tricycle, boat); communication (radio station, radio set); and financial services (community bank), the girls received certificates and gift bags to take home.
The event was also attended by the Director of the Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), Marcella Karekye, and representatives from FIN Church Aid Uganda.