From where I stand: “We are trying to build a drone…to dispense medicines in rural areas”

Fifteen-year-old Eno Ekanem was among 80 girls from 34 African countries who attended the first Coding Camp in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 24 August 2018. The camp marked the launch the African Girls Can CODE Initiative, a joint programme of the African Union Commission, UN Women and the International Telecommunication Union


Eno Ekanem poses in front of a African Girls Can Code Initiative sign. Photo: UN Women/Faith Bwibo
Eno Ekanem. Photo: UN Women/Faith Bwibo

Coding is a topic in our curriculum, and I have been taking coding lessons since 2017, when I was 14. But I wanted to know more about coding, as we didn’t really dig deep in school.

Most boys are going to specialize in computers, more than girls. Girls face discrimination in this sector, because computer science has always been seen as a course for boys, not girls… Shouldn’t you learn to be a housewife or do girly stuff, [people ask].

My perspective has changed, as I too used to think that computers are only for boys. But now, since lots of female coders have come and spoken to us, I feel like ‘yes, girls can also do this!’

We are trying to build a drone that is controlled by SMS messaging that will be able to dispense medicine in rural areas. Because people in rural areas don’t have access to medicines. We were six girls in my group, from Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Senegal and Nigeria. It was cool to work in a group like this. You learn about coding, but also other aspects of how we share ideas and develop them. You also learn about the different countries and cultures. We listen to each other, give space to speak and try to work [together].

I will be given a laptop as part of this programme, so I will take it to school and teach my female peers [how to code]. They shouldn’t think that it is only boys who can code!

I will make sure I share everything I learned here, including the life-coaching skills.” 

SDG 4: Quality education
SDG 5: Gender equality

Eno Ekanem, 15, is from Abuja, Nigeria. Now comfortable in coding, she hopes to use it in the pursuit of a career in medicine. The African Girls Can CODE initiative is designed to equip young girls with digital literacy, coding and personal development skills. They will be trained as programmers, creators and designers, placing them on-track to take up education and careers in ICT and coding. Her story relates to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality, and SDG 4 on education and skills.