Johannesburg, 03 Nov 2023
In the heart of Philippi in the Cape Flats, in a township flanked by Nyanga, Gugulethu, Mandaly and Crossroads, stood a concrete factory. Today, that same factory has become a modern, vibrant, upmarket, multi-faceted and mixed use secure centre where the Philippi community can gather, regardless of their background, gender, race or religious beliefs to access life-changing and diverse programmes and the digital services necessary to function today. This is the Philippi Village.
Philippi Village is also home to the Women in Tech computer learning centre, dedicated to supporting young girls from the local communities by granting them access to computers. Here, they also acquire valuable computer skills, as well as career tips and mentorship.
The continued work the Women in Tech computer centre does would not be possible without the funding support and volunteer work that goes into it from a variety of corners. Absa is one of its sponsors. No stranger to the Philippi Village is Tamu Dutuma, Absa Technology’s Head of Strategy, Governance and Reporting, who, along with some of his female colleagues, recently attended a digital skills workshop there.
“Our objective behind this support is to reinforce the message that girls and women can thrive in the tech space,” he says. “We’ve provided the centre with digital equipment to learn tech skills, but there is still much work to be done to overcome the perceptions that STEM careers are the domain of men, with awareness starting at grassroots levels at schools.
“We realise that it takes a series of small steps, but we can change the technology landscape, one story at a time. We cannot be satisfied with the existing statistics around have to be more proactive in changing the workforce landscape and we cannot do this alone. This requires deliberate, intentional partnerships and networking with allies. With collaboration – which we are seeing getting stronger, the message gets increasingly more powerful and widespread.”
I started with the Philippi Village to improve my matric results. It helps so many children use and develop their skills in many different ways.Olona Ntsede, student
Women in Tech’s Africa Regional Director, Melissa Slaymaker, describes in more detail the Women in Tech computer lab initiative at Philippi Village and its work, possible through the support of Absa. “Women in Tech is a non-profit organisation and all funds that they receive are invested into various projects that aim to empower young girls and women in technology.
“This lab has 28 computers, connected to the internet and printing facilities.
“Use of this lab is absolutely free, and it is available to local schools, primarily targeting the youth of the Philippi community.
Bridging the digital divide
“It is the Women in Tech’s global mission to empower five million women and girls in STEM by 2030, focusing on education, business, social inclusion and advocacy as primary areas through which to create impact and it can only do this if we maintain constructive and ongoing partnerships on projects, such as the computer lab with Absa, which continues to inspire and encourage technology as a career, highlighting the opportunities in IT and helping to bridge the digital divide.
“We are also indebted to the volunteers who give up so much of their time to teach our students skills such as how to open a Gmail account and use various software tools like Microsoft’s Excel and Word. These volunteers help make our work possible.”
Outreach manager for the University of Cape Town’s Women in Computer Sciences and a Philippi digital skills volunteer teacher who was at the workshop, Raquel Dennison, adds: “Helping others is a success story in itself. The people who work at Philippi see it not as work, but as a way they can help the community become a better place.”
“It’s only through our partnerships with sponsors like Absa that make initiatives such as those at the Philippi Village possible,” says Slaymaker.
“We decided to collaborate across different areas with Women in Tech because they have the broader pillars we would like to reach,” continues Dutuma. “Women in Tech’s advocacy and support of the talent development of women speaks to our environmental, social, and corporate governance principles and these we are passionate about.
“We recognise that Women in Tech is a global entity and one that is growing. Taking this growth forward, we remain committed to the Women in Tech projects we support both directly, like the Philippi Village hub’s computer learning centre, and indirectly through other initiatives.
“We remain steadfast in our determination to proactively push gender diversity, female development projects and programmes,” concludes Dutuma.
* Article first published on brainstorm.itweb.co.za