Home » 6th Annual Imbokodo Lecture shines spotlight on the girl child in the digital age

6th Annual Imbokodo Lecture shines spotlight on the girl child in the digital age

by Tia

If knowledge is power, whose knowledge, whose power, for what, for who and to what end? With these words, Dr Pregs Govender, activist for the advancement of women’s rights and author of Love, Courage & Insubordination, opened her address at the 6th annual Robben Island Museum (RIM) Imbokodo Lecture with the theme “DIGITALL: INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY FOR GENDER EQUALITY”

“What potential exists in our country, to address gender inequality, in a context where in South Africa and across the world, there is growing inequality, i.e. income, wealth and gender inequality. So, the challenge is, how will innovation and technology be used to change this, and can it change it,” said Dr Govender during her address. 

The slogan Wathint’Abafazi, Wathint’Imbokodo’ (you strike the woman, you strike the rock) that inspired the annual Robben Island Museum (RIM) Imbokodo Lecture, brought the room to its feet as a panel of inspirational women, including Dr Pregs Govender, Baratang Miya, Zubeida Zwavel and Zandile Mkwanazi showed why they are captains of industry in the digital age. 

Drawing parallels between South Africans speaking multiple languages and the need to recognise that coding is a language we all have to understand, Zandile Mkwanazi, founder and CEO of GirlCode, he largest women in tech lead educational organisation in South Africa, shared her vision for how technology can and must be used to close the gender digital divide. “How can we create awareness and provide opportunities and education to eliminate the gender digital divide? Our responsibility is to create a chain reaction that will ultimately reach the most remote rural girl child, and expose her to technology, so that she may realise and unlock her potential. Let’s connect the dots and remove the barriers,” said Mkwanazi. 

Baratang Miya, CEO of GirlHYPE, an NPO that empowers women and youth from underrepresented groups in the ICT sector in South Africa, echoed these sentiments and further unpacked how the use of artificial intelligence is a tool that women should be grabbing with both hands, to rewrite the dominant voices of the West, on the internet. Through the work done by GirlHYPE in Khayelitsha, they have already capacitated young girls to develop an App that links unemployed youth with employment opportunities in the recycling space – just one example of how technology can be put to use to create solutions for problems faced by many communities across the country, with the girl child leading from the front. 

With the African girl child on a pathway to success in the ICT space, sustainability cannot be left behind. And to this effect, the final panellist, Zubeida Zwavel, executive director of the Centre for African Resource Efficiency and Sustainability (CARES) added her voice. CARES aims to support small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) by creating awareness and giving access to sustainability mechanisms and furthering women’s roles within sustainable business. Shining the spotlight on digitisation and sustainability, she showed how to balance the need to incorporate technology, with being responsible citizens and creating impactful solutions that will ultimately support women in the daily struggle called life.  The event brought together technologists, innovators, gender activists, social entrepreneurs, the girl child and altogether phenomenal women who are breaking down barriers and rewriting the rules.

RIM CEO, Abigail Thulare, called on all present to take the remarkable efforts of women leading the way in the ICT space, beyond words, so that the African girl child has all she needs to flourish. “While it is widely known that men were incarcerated on Robben Island for their opposition to the apartheid system, the narrative that women in fact played a significant role as activists in ensuring democracy and freedom in South Africa, is lesser known, and therein lies a responsibility of each one of us to set that record straight. In 2018, RIM launched the Imbokodo Lecture series, a mark of respect to women who sacrificed their lives and freedom for a more just South Africa.  Note, we are not living in a just South Africa, this is work in progress. Some will say, not yet where we want to be, but grateful that we are no longer where we used to be, especially as women,” said Thulare. 

In closing, RIM Council Member, Quahnita Samie, thanked the panellists for their contributions. “When people say they are inspired by the work done by the remarkable women on our panel, I think they speak for all of us here this evening. You are indeed raising the bar and flying the flag for all women and especially giving Africa’s girl child hope. You are giving her a reason to dream and something to believe in. Tonight I feel like we are on our way. On our way to force inclusivity to force the end of abuse, to force the existence of safe spaces for our girls to grow, develop and be the best version of themselves, fearlessly navigating tech spaces and leading from the front,” said Cllr Samie.

The panel of Imbokodo who spoke at the 6th Annual RIM Imbokodo Lecture

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