The Women Using Tech to Empower Others

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Last week as part of International Women’s Day #IWD, Zaynab (one of our student digital ambassadors) and I attended a meet-up organised by Geek Girls UK and Tech for Good at Skills Matter, Code Node in Moorgate.

It was really inspiring for us to hear from a whole variety of women who work in tech for good causes. For example, in the lightening talks section, we heard from Scarlett who had come up with the idea of Crack + Cider with her friend, Charlotte. This is an online store where people can buy useful items for our city’s homeless. The name had been inspired by a homeless guy who told her that people would not give him money because they thought he would just spend it on “crack and cider”. Their site allows you to simply buy the item you want to be delivered to a homeless person in your city and they then distribute it with the help of local, independent organisations such as soup kitchens or shelters.

We also heard from Janet Chapmen from Tanzania Development Trust, which is a volunteer-run charity that has been going for 41 years. Their biggest project is  Crowd2Map, with over 1000 online volunteers from all over the world to help girls refusing FGM to find a safe house. Volunteers are working on  a comprehensive map of rural Tanzania, including detailed depictions of all of its villages, roads and public resources (such as schools, shops, offices etc.)  They are mapping primarily on OpenStreetMap via Maps.me app on smartphones or tablets and directly editing openstreetmap.org on laptops. Anybody with an internet connection with any interest in women’s rights or mapping can get involved. Access to smartphones is also a big limiting factor in Tanzania. So if you want to organise an event in your organisation to support the project, Janet said that would be amazing.

Next there were a number of community announcements. For instance, Amna  from Manchester works for Womensaid for her day job but outside of work is trying to put together an organisation called the Women’s Platform which is about disrupting some of the spaces which marginalise women. Islamaphobia and racism combined with sexism are massive issues that many women face in her community when thinking about public spaces so she is now trying to create the necessary support networks and mentoring. She is seeking ideas and support to help her digitise her project.

In addition, we hard from Chakshu Saharan, the founder of Ignius. Ignius is in the business of building Internet of Things products to solve real-world problems. The first product they are trying to build is a wearable to keep women safe especially in Latin America and India, where the issue of gender-based violence is really severe. For example, if you look at India, nearly 850 women are killed, raped or abducted every day. So far they have run a successful pilot in India. Their prototype does not really feel like a wearable but it really works. Now they are looking to raise money to build this device and to help with video promotions to take it to bigger companies to take it to women that need it.

Following the announcements, there was a panel discussion between women working in Tech For Good, including Anjali Ramachandran from Ada’s List , Dr Ronda Zelezny-Green from GSMA, Leonie van der Linde from Erase all Kittens a game which teaches children to code and Dina Ariss who volunteers for Chayn to work on the gender violence toolkits and sits on the Refugee Design Council for EmpowerHack.

In conclusion, we found the event extremely interesting and hope to attend more Geek Girls UK and Tech for Good Meet-Ups in the future. There are so many amazing projects that our College community could volunteer on in order to develop our digital skills and make a real difference! Look out for more updates from our Student Digital Ambassadors.

Want to see the full video of the meet-up? Watch it here.

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