How Learning to Use Technology (for the First Time!) Changed My Life
It’s no secret that women are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to careers in science and tech. But, for women in countries where computers aren’t quite as accessible, it’s even worse. The United Nations is trying to change that. With the help of the UN’s GirlUp, 80 girls from Africa and 20 girls from the U.S. came together this year in hopes of closing the global STEM gap. Here's one Liberian teen's experience.
This summer, I was a camper at the 2017 Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design, and Math) Camp in Malawi. This was the third year of the camp—the first one was in Rwanda in 2015, then Peru in 2016. There were 97 campers from countries including Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the U.S.
Being born to a low-income family in Liberia, I’ve never had any experiences like flying on an airplane, using electricity, or having an overhead shower. Coming to this camp was my first time getting on a plane. It was very scary—but at the same time, I felt like it was a symbol of how much this camp would change me.
Back home in Liberia, I don’t have access to technology. For this reason, it was difficult for me at first to use computers at camp. I learned quickly, though; it didn’t take long before I was doing things like running programs and inventing apps. I even built a robot! Building and programming a robot was something I never thought I would learn to do, but I am grateful to have those skills. After all, how many people can say they’ve done that?
I made a lot of mistakes at first, but I didn’t let this discourage me from completing the task. One of the speakers at the camp said, “Mistakes are the best learning tools,” which inspired me to apply more effort. It worked. I also invented an app with the help of Google, a camp partner, as my final project. It’s an educational tool where girls can be informed about their health and learn about different health issues girls face around the world.
With the help of other campers, we built our own microscope, practiced finding bacteria with professional microbiologists, and more. One day I want to be an agriculturalist, so this was an inspiring tool for me to learn.
This camp was such a blessing because it made me understand the world and technology as it advances. And not just that, but also to understand the different cultures of other countries in the world. Meeting new friends from my own country, as well as other places, was awesome. Learning about technology at the camp was like achieving my dream.
By Doeree S. Johnson, 18