GirlsGoIT Teaches Women in Moldova About Virtual Reality
About: GirlsGoIT is a national program supported by UN Women, Embassy of Sweden, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, USAID and TEKEDU in Moldova. Since launched in March 2015, it has become a national program established in 13 regions in Moldova building future STEM ambassadors to pick interest in mainstream technologies
Being GirlsGoIT’s event sponsor, VeeR had the privilege to interview Abayomi Ogundipe, co-founder of TEKEDU and coordinator of GirlsGoIT, on the program’s visions and every step it’s taken in achieving them.
1. Under what circumstances was Tekedu founded? What visions did you have for it back then?
TEKEDU, also known as Technical Education or Tech Education, was established to make technology accessible to young people, especially for the disadvantaged groups. TEKEDU came to this world as a result of a visit by one of our co-founder, Abayomi, who came to Moldova has a volunteer through AIESEC to support a project aimed at ensuring that children from orphanages have opportunities when they leave the negative walls surrounding them in the orphanages. Abayomi discovered that the project aimed to aid the children is not promising and decided to co-found TEKEDU.
2. Why did launch the joint program with UN Women?
GirlsGoIT’s platform is one of UN Women’s key priority agenda for Moldova which is “to promote gender equality and the economic empowerment and advance Women and Girls’ access to ICT in Moldova”
Since GirlsGoIT was launched in March 2015, UN Women office in Moldova have fully dedicated support for the mission of GirlsGoIT and because of UN Women’s support, GirlsGoIT has become a national program established in 13 regions in Moldova building future STEM ambassadors to pique interest in mainstream technologies.
3. Why is nurturing entrepreneurship and promoting technology education among girls particularly important to you? What is unique about the Moldova context?
Currently, the world is building technology capabilities that will be in the forefront of every industrial sector. We are currently at the early stage of technology revolution which is requiring creative minds to evolve around the revolution and build technologies that the future requires. For this, we need to nurture creative-critical-thinking into the young generations and especially girls, supported by emerging technologies of the future.
In this context, Moldova has a potential opportunity to become the rising economy that will be in the forefront of the technology revolution, because in this emerging technology revolution, advanced countries are still developing. Moldova currently is in the direction with the on-going Digital 2020 Agenda to build capacities and infrastructures for the emerging revolution.
4. Could you explain what training/programs GirlsGoIT mainly covers?
In 2015, GirlsGoIT started with web development training. Now, we have added two more training programs which are 3D printing and Robotics. The two additional program was possible due to the support of Swiss Agency For Development and Cooperation and Google RISE Awards.
We also cover capacity-building training on communication skills, public speaking and project management. This is because GirlsGoIT ambassadors (we don’t call them participants) are responsible for leading the program activities in their communities. To ensure this, we incorporated the capacity building in our training program so that they can become leaders and role models to their peers in their schools and communities.
All of the training is consulted with ambassadors, as we plan with them and their opinion is highly important to the program development as it progresses.
5. How would you judge the program’s impact so far? What hopes do you have for it in both near and distant future?
Every year, since 2015, GirlsGoIT has been building a network and generations of STEM ambassadors. We have envisioned that the established and growing network of ambassadors will lead the program in future, providing sister-to-sister mentoring. This foresight into the future will ensure the sustainability of the program and eventually become a key branch supporting Moldova’s social development, equality and human capacity.
This year’s STEM summer camp, the future became a reality that 3 ambassadors that benefited in the year the program was launched, came back as mentors to deliver training the new generation of ambassadors.
All of these are a result of GirlsGoIT shared vision of communities of international and local organizations that have invested valuable resources in the program. The vision is also shared with platform mentors and trainers who are young exceptional individuals that are connected towards the vision of the program. This is why GirlsGoIT was able to establish local club centers in public libraries in 13 regions in Moldova, 172 girl-ambassadors have benefitted in the program and more than 35 girl-ambassadors are currently pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses at Universities with Technical Faculties in Moldova and abroad. GirlsGoIT also received Google RISE Awards for making education equally accessible for girls in under-served communities in the regions of Moldova.
6. What are some of the upcoming events that you are most excited about?
We are excited that we can pilot a new training program in Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality and this is due to VeeR’s contribution in donating 80 pieces of VR Mini glasses. We also want to thank our co-founder, Anastasia Miron, who facilitated the opportunity for the donation from VeeR.
We have planned a 6-week autumn bootcamp program starting in October, in 12 regions. In the 6-week program, Girl-ambassadors will continue to work on the development of their local club platform.
We have our annual forum, Building the Future Workforce Including Women and Girls in and through Technology, which will happen on the 23rd of November.
7. From your experience so far, what are some of the most effective practices in educational technology?
Partnership and collaboration for us is an effective practice in educational technology because we believe in growing and going together. You can never go far if you go alone.
We must work together, we must have shared vision and values, we must bring our resources together for a common cause and let our vision be our mission, together.
 UN Women in Moldova Program Priorities – Advance Women and Girls’ access to ICT – http://eca.unwomen.org/en/where-we-are/moldova/economic-empowerment
 Digital Moldova 2020 – www.mtic.gov.md/sites/default/files/legi/doc/hg857_din_31.10.2013_en.docx
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