UC Berkeley alumna Gloria Tumushabe launched a GoFundMe campaign to purchase internet and laptops for women in sub-Saharan Africa as part of a larger effort to empower and teach young women to code.
Growing up in Uganda, Tumushabe made connections with other women who desired to learn to code. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, she created a program coined Afro Fem Coders, but only 13 students out of the original 40 who expressed interest were able to join due to differences in access to Wi-Fi and laptops.
Today, Afro Fem Coders supports young women pursuing coding by providing weekly virtual classes, college and career mentorship and by connecting them with other women in the industry, according to its website.
“These women who are reaching out and saying they want to do so many things might be able to get financial independence and maybe empower other women to learn,” Tumushabe said. “I hope it can create a cycle through sub-Saharan Africa.”
Less than 5% of programmers in sub-Saharan Africa today are women, and it is often difficult for them to find a safe environment to learn and work, according to the GoFundMe page. Many also do not have Wi-Fi at home.
Tumushabe aims to address this disparity by providing aspiring programmers with the safety and support needed to find success in the industry so her students know they are “cared about even at your lowest moments.”
According to Tumushabe, students in the program also have mentors, with many coming from Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook and Apple. She also intends to diversify the global workplace, as some of her current students are applying to universities in the United States.
“As a Black woman, as an African woman in computer sciences, sometimes I walk into classes and see not many people that look like me,” Tumushabe said. “So, I feel like I”m going to be able to improve the numbers of African women in computer science.”
Afro Fem Coders uses a project-based teaching style to help students develop their technical skills in web development and coding languages, according to its website.
UC Berkeley graduate student Lavanya Vijayan and alumna Olivia Hsu are developing the curriculum to teach students to code using Scratch and Python, respectively, according to the GoFundMe page.
As of press time, the GoFundMe page has raised $1,450 with a goal of $20,000. Tumushabe is using this funding to secure stable internet connections for the women, which she noted she is currently paying for herself.
In the future, Tumushable said she looks forward to providing laptops for the many women who want to join the program but lack the funds to participate. After the pandemic, she plans to create a safe space for her students that would provide menstrual products, snacks, stable Wi-Fi and computer access.
“I hope that maybe people can be able to contribute to the GoFundMe so that we can get more laptops, more internet,” Tumushabe said. “I just hope that people will be able to contribute so that more girls will be able to enroll in the program.”
Contact Dina Katgara and Emma Taila at [email protected].