“Women: How do we get them out of the comfort zone and mentality of I cannot do that for better involvement in developmental activities?

Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) hosted #BarCamp2 onWednesday, November 4, 2015 at the RAN Innovation Lab on Plot 30, Upper Kololo Terrace Kampala Uganda. The discussion was guided by the question; “How Might We Support Rising Women Entrepreneurs and Innovators in The Region”.

The engagement was a great learning and knowledge sharing opportunity for the 37 (18 males and 19 females) participants from different levels and associates of work, NGOs, students, software developers, engineers, and so many more with a common initiative to support women entrepreneurs and Innovators change the face of development from the grassroots. One participant openly remarked, “How can we get females out of their silos without further lowering their interest to participate in the various activities and efforts.

The #BarCamp is an opportunity for all females in Uganda to develop interest to competitively innovate and take up the ever sprouting opportunities while harnessing the merits of collaboration, networking, mentorship, coaching, peer-to-peer learning, gender balance and project funding. “It is only usually unfortunate and discomforting when such opportunity avails itself and the majority of the participants are males as maybe the case today?” said Barbara Birungi, One of the presenters at the #BarCamp2 and Program Manager HIV Colab.

The panelists of the event; Evelyn Namara, a Girl Geek female Innovator, an Implementation Manager of Gray Matter Capital in India and formerly working with a start-up- Solar Sisters and, Rebecca Mukite Ayo, an Engineer in the Department of Technology Networks and Services at Uganda Communications Commission and Barbara Birungi, Program Manager at HIV Colab had the following ideas to share;

The challenge faced

  • Many women out there are not well informed about the great opportunities that ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) has to offer.
  • Many women have low self-esteem and cannot speak out in public, cannot involve themselves in critical thinking sessions and thus drown themselves in self-pity.
  • Tradition has bound women to think that they are incapable of innovation; that it is only for the men. Unfortunately, even up to today many women still hold onto that misconception.
  • Additionally, women do not trust the men to handle home related activities such as chores, babysitting among others. Therefore, the women opt to stay home while their husbands go to work.

The way forward

Sharing the above challenges generated a discussion around the following areas;

  • ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) should select a platform/s that will inform and attract women to innovation and entrepreneurship among others from all parts of Uganda. It is also vital that RAN widely shares about the great opportunities it has to offer to women and their endeavors.
  • Big organizations pursuing efforts towards development of this nation should foster and recognise Innovations created by women.
  • Understand and implement solutions such as training and mentorship programs that will enable and support women to abandon the victim mentality and comfort zone, build their confidence, logical thinking and initiate them to think towards creative innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Promote diverse innovation not necessarily fixed on technology in order to get more women on board
  • Create and regularize workshops that will empower women and girls to be more confident and further embrace innovation
  • Show case outstanding women entrepreneurs who are famously known for their contribution to development so as to inspire women or girls who still think that women are only good for the ‘kitchen’.
  • Advocate for male support (husbands to be supportive of their wives’ careers, female innovative solutions/projects and work).

The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) Director of Innovations, Dr. Dorothy Okello moderated the Question and Answer session were she engaged participants in an interactive discussion on whether the option to have “ladies work to put food on the table while their spouses stayed back home babysitting and doing the related chores or if men were comfortable sitting at home while their wives went to work”. It was noted that majority of the ladies about 80% were against the idea and yet half of the men in attendance were for it.

It was also an opportunity for Sheila Agaba, the Lab Technical Officer at RAN, to share the highlights from the 2015 Technovation Challenge and proposed a partnership with the participants in finding solutions to improve the upcoming 2016 Technovation Challenge.

RAN’s Communications Manager, Harriet Adong also shared that James Fletcher – a journalist with BBC Current Affairs radio had expressed interest in visiting RAN on November 13, 2015. He is currently working on a series of documentaries looking at aspects of coding in Africa, and is planning to visit Uganda to film and compile a programme highlighting the use of coding and technology for development purposes. He has expressed particular interest in women, technology and development and would like to understand more about the Technovation Challenge too.

“Women are capable of becoming the driving force of entrepreneurial growth today and in the future.” Darlene Tumushabe, RAN Graduate Intern.