IMPACT

This Co-Ed Coding Class For Teens In Ghana Is Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes

04/03/2015 02:50 pm ET | Updated Apr 10, 2015
Ariadne Van Zandbergen via Getty Images

Regina Agyare didn't initially include boys in her computer coding class. But after one male student expressed his discontent at seeing "girls being empowered," she spotted an opportunity.

Agyare -- the brainpower behind Tech Needs Girls, an initiative launched by her software development company, Soronko Solutions -- runs a weekly class teaching tech skills to students above a mosque in Accra, Ghana. In a slum area of the city where many girls marry young and are denied an education, the class provides an opportunity for them to better their academic and economic outlooks, CNN reported.

"When the parents are praying [downstairs], we are teaching the girls upstairs," Agyare explained to the outlet.

Although the class of about 50 is predominantly female, a few boys have trickled in to benefit from the instruction, she said. And the inclusion prompted young people -- like boys who believed a girl is "to be their wife" and "needs to be taken care of" -- to rethink gender roles that have kept girls from pursuing tech-related futures.

Similar ideas on gender roles may be in part to blame for a lack of American women working in computer-related fields, too. A study released last month by the American Association of University Women suggests the U.S. may actually be headed in the wrong direction when it comes to gender equality in tech: In 2013, women held only 26 percent of computing jobs -- a significant drop from 35 percent in 1990.

It's a problem President Obama is taking seriously. His administration has launched initiatives -- such as a NASA/Girl Scouts of the USA partnership and the Department of Energy’s Women in STEM program -- aimed at getting more girls on the pathway to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The tech gender gap isn't being ignored in Ghana, either, and -- thanks to people like Agyare -- attitudes are changing.

Agyare partnered with a local nonprofit, Achievers Ghana, to find students for her class. The organization is helping 250 girls continue their education by offering classes like math, poetry, technology and reading.

Conservative members of the community were once opposed to Achievers Ghana’s work, but, after a leader within the mosque advocated on behalf of the nonprofit's mission, everyone is rooting for the girls to succeed.

"I definitely feel [technology] has given them more of a voice," Agyare told CNN. "I feel like it's allowed them to express themselves and interact with others ... for them, it's important to be heard."

To take action on pressing education issues, check out the Global Citizen's widget below.

Related on HuffPost:

  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
    President Barack Obama tries a wheelchair powered by a rowing motion designed by Kaitlin Reed of Massachusetts during the 2015 White House Science Fair on March 23, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The fair celebrates student winners who created projects to illustrate mastery of science, technology, math or engineering.
  • Pool via Getty Images
    President Barack Obama tries an attachable lever, created by Kaitlin Reed, that can make wheelchair movements easier, while Mohammed Sayed -- who developed a 3D-printed modular arm -- looks on.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
    Mohammed Sayed of Cambridge, Massachusetts, speaks to President Barack Obama about his modular 3D-printed and magnet-based wheelchair accessories.
  • AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
    President Barack Obama tours an exhibit with 6-year-old Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the White House Science Fair in the Red Room of the White House. The Girl Scouts -- Emily Bergenroth, Alicia Cutter, Karissa Cheng, Addy O'€™Neal and Emery Dodson -- used Lego pieces and designed a battery-powered page turner to help people who are paralyzed or have arthritis.
  • AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
    President Barack Obama poses with 6-year-old Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the White House Science Fair.
  • AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
    President Barack Obama tours an exhibit by 6-year-old Girl Scouts during the White House Science Fair.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
    President Barack Obama receives a hug from Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the 2015 White House Science Fair.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
    Tiye Garrett of Denver, Colorado, explains her method of cheaply scanning leaves to share samples with other scientists.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
    Sergio Corral and Isela Martinez, both of Phoenix, Arizona, explain their robot to President Barack Obama.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
    Kristian Sonsteby of Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania, watches as President Barack Obama makes waves to illustrate her solution to generate electricity from docks bobbing in the water.
  • Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images
    President Barack Obama listens to Stephanie Bullock, who is part of a team from the U.S. Virgin Islands that designed rockets for the Team America Rocketry Challenge.
  • Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images
    President Barack Obama listens to Sahil Doshi, 14, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who designed an innovative carbon-dioxide powered battery to reduce the environmental effects of pollution.
  • AP Photo/Susan Walsh
    President Barack Obama spoke in the East Room of the White House during the 2015 White House Science Fair. Here, he jokingly gestures towards the exit doors after he smelled smoke during the event. The fair celebrated the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The 2015 Science Fair has a specific focus on diversity and includes many students.
Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS