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A bid to educate women on IT
Indo-Asian News Service
Bangalore, April 13, 2006
First Published: 10:52 IST(13/4/2006)
Last Updated: 10:52 IST(13/4/2006)

LinuxChix - a women's-only computer initiative by an African group - hopes to empower the fairer sex in matters of technology and software.

Linuxchix Africa was formed in 2004 "by African women for African women" because, as one of the co-founders Dorcas Muthoni says, "people fear computers and women are more affected by this fear".

"But with a lot of technology tools coming into their lives, women are becoming more and more open to this (computers). The whole IT industry has opened a lot of specialised areas, which are not necessary geeky," Muthoni said.

The group plans to acquaint schoolgirls with IT as an industry so as to enable them to choose IT as a career. Thanks to its efforts, networking, web design and web development are no longer a taboo area for women.

Muthoni said: "We see LinuxChix Africa as a solution provider and also a development organisation."

The group is a chapter in Africa affiliated to Linuxchix worldwide. Another group started in India just a few months back.

South Africa's Anna Badimo and Kenya's Muthoni - both co-founders of Linuxchix Africa - are focused on implementing activities.

"We are working to get communication going with other partners across the continent. We've been drafting our business plan for the next three years. Basically, we are emphasising networking, both for recruiting members and for recruiting partners," Muthoni said.

Africa faces a number of challenges currently - AIDS, illiteracy, the lack of development, building up the educational infrastructure, an unfair global economic system and more.

Linuxchix Africa argues that community development can no longer be viewed in isolation but require multi-tiered, cross-sectoral, and well-coordinated approaches that are aligned to information and communications technology (ICT).

"Without ICT, communities get left behind and are unable to take advantage of its social and economic benefits," argues the group on its website - africalinuxchix.org.

FLOSS, or Free/Libre and Open Source Software, now makes it possible to make software available to people who could otherwise not afford it.

Countries will no longer have to prioritise between poverty and the digital divide. Women, affected the most, need to be "properly tooled and positioned" to make that difference in their lives, Muthoni said.

Hoping to make the field of ICT less male-dominated, Muthoni and Badimo are going about adding details to their effort at gender parity.

"Few people in our part of the world have contact with, or a background in, IT. Women also try to avoid science or mathematics. They've not been in big numbers in IT or computers. So we've had very few opportunities for women to interact or mentor other women," Muthoni added.


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