Today’s Dame of the Day is Mariama Bâ (April 17, 1929 – August 17, 1981). Growing up in Dakar, Senegal, Bâ struggled to get an education at a time when schooling for girls was considered wasteful. As an adult, she married and later divorced, leaving her a single mother of nine. Bâ channeled her frustration with sexism and oppression into her novel, So Long a Letter. Through her writing and her own personal live, Bâ served as an example of modern womanhood to future generations of Senegalese women.
Like many countries worldwide, Senegal’s tech industry is fairly male-dominated. While policy-makers the world over debate government initiatives to encourage women in STEM professions, 24 year-old Coudy Binta De decided to attack the problem herself. In 2012, she and three other programming friends launched Jjiguene Tech Hub in Dakar. (Jjiguene means “women” in Wolof, the dialect spoken across much of Senegal.)
Image from Jjiguene Tech Hub
Jjiguene’s program is part technical instruction and part mentorship. The group recognizes that in order to thrive in a male-dominated field, women need to be assertive and confident in their abilities. Once a month, guest speakers share their knowledge and answer questions in front of an audience. While most web development classes occur in the capital, the group also travels around the country running clinics at elementary and secondary schools.
An image from Code Camp 2013 from Jjiguene Tech Hub
As women grow more confident and technically skilled, Jjiguene encourages them to participate in competitions. Their site mentions initiatives like She Leads Africa, an open call for startup business proposals, and the Young Innovators competition, a project sponsored by the UN that encourages solving complex problems with open source technology.
For more information, check out their website, follow them on Twitter, or give them a shout on Facebook.