Cameroon: Program helps women pursue a career in IT


Cameroon Program helps women pursue a career in IT

Students across Cameroon have expertise ranging from engineering to pharmaceuticals, but not having the right technical training can mean missing job opportunities. For women, entering the IT sector is even more challenging, as the sector is still seen as a male vocation.

Habiba is one of these students. An engineer in information systems and software engineering, she joined Cuso International’s TechWomen Factory program to further her coding and data visualization skills. The data science student says the program has given her a new lease on life and has allowed her to build for the future.

“I dream of improving the place of women in Northern Cameroon. We always say that the field of data science is a man’s field. Women who are interested in artificial intelligence or data science are often ridiculed,” said Habiba.

TechWomen Factory, in partnership with the Cameroon Youth School Tech Incubator (CAYSTI), was first established in 2021. The project supports women 18 to 35 years old who are unemployed or underemployed by adding a high level of digital competency to their existing credentials.

Since 2021, the project has helped 179 Cameroonians, most of whom are women, to fully integrate into the job market and the digital world. The project includes three six-month trainings in data science, digital art, and web development. Participants also engaged in a three-month professional internship.

During the program, Habiba participated in an inter-course competition. Her team created an application that helps prevent the risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women and won the competition.

“The training for me went great,” Habiba praised.

“We had group work where we learned what soft skills are, entrepreneurship, how to behave well with comrades,” she said. “Then we did the technique and currently we are in the internship phase, where we are deployed in different organizations to address the real needs and to boost their operations through our skills.”

Habiba is determined to help make Northern Cameroon a region where women are comfortable and reach higher professional levels, such as decision-making positions and being fully integrated in the artificial intelligence market.

“I would like to see computer science grow in my home region as well, and get girls interested in saying you can go to school and make it. It’s not just ‘child,’ ‘marriage,’ and life is over. On the contrary, life goes on,” said the engineer.

Habiba made the choice to continue her studies after graduation instead of starting a family. She wasn’t immune to pressures from her own community, but the support of her immediate family allowed her to realize her dreams.

“But as soon as you step outside of that (family) framework… you’re categorized as someone you shouldn’t get close to,” Habiba lamented.

She says she doesn’t regret her decision to pursue her studies and a professional career, rather than family life immediately after graduating.

“I was lucky to have understanding parents who always supported me in my studies and encouraged me. I don’t regret my engineering education or the TechWomen Factory,” she said.

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