Strengthening digital skills for young women in Benin
Given the scarcity of job opportunities in Benin for young people, SOS Children’s Villages launched a program that could help young people become IT entrepreneurs. Learnio is an ICT4D initiative that has enabled young people in SOS Children’s Villages to strengthen their digital and social skills while working with other young professionals from their communities.
In this interview, 24-year-old Yvette from Benin talks about her experience with Learnio and the opportunities and challenges women ad girls face in the digital world.
My name is Yvette Natta. I'm 24 years old. I'm a young person from SOS Children's Villages in Benin. I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Financial and Accounting Management, and I'm currently completing my Master's degree in Management Control, Audit, and Finance at the National School of Applied Economics and Management in Benin.
I'm a young changemaker in my community, representing the voice of Benin's youth, also at the regional level during roundtables and meetings promoting youth employability. I had great experiences with the [SOS] YouthCan! initiative, especially in Benin, Ethiopia, and Senegal.
Professionally, I'm a freelancer. I offer online presentation harmonization services to an international company called MASTERWiZR.
What motivated you to participate in Learnio? Have there been any role models that inspired you?
I often saw my elders participating in the program. It interested me because I had never had the chance to see someone create a website by themselves. I always had an impression that IT was a very difficult field, dominated by men. My unemployment situation was a constraining factor but, above all, a motivating one. It was a personal challenge for me. I wanted to make money through online platforms like many young people do today, but I was not particularly motivated by any role models.
What are the challenges for young people in your country concerning digital technology? Have you experienced any exclusion in the area or are you aware of how girls have less accessibility to technology than boys? How could closing the digital divide help empower girls?
Authorities must offer widespread access to ICT for many more young people, especially for girls. This would allow them to take better advantage of technology at the local level. One of the biggest challenges now is the lack of connectivity and efficient or adequate tools, such as computers and software. The acquisition of these expensive tools should be subsidized.
For young people to get the most out of it, they should first be motivated and open to learning new things. The challenges we now face are related to basic computer skills and linked to our poorly developed educational system. Adapting to the new way of working, in which everything is online, requires a high level of creativity. Also, language barriers are to be taken into consideration because courses and freelancing platforms are mostly available in English, and many young people do not understand this language.
I have no particular experience of exclusion in the ICT field, but I am well aware that girls often lack access to new technologies. In our African cultures, it is a domain reserved mostly for men, and the few girls who are part of it often come from wealthy families. Many girls do not go to school and do not have access to cell phones. Also, our school programs do not have a strong focus on ICT.
To improve this, it would be important to provide digital education to everyone, regardless of their background or gender, offer free ICT training scholarships to girls, provide them with digital devices and connections, organize workshops, open days in institutions in the digital field, competitions, trade fairs in the ICT sector, or professional meetings to show that this sector is not only for men.
How did technology in general and this program in particular help you overcome challenges? How do you make use of what you have learned?
Technology has changed my life and my daily habits. The Learnio program allowed me to develop more knowledge and skills in the field of web development. I was lucky enough to get a personal computer and an internet connection from SOS Children’s Villages to start my first paid contract, which I was able to get at the end of my training.
I work from home and manage my time as I please after my classes. In my spare time, I am constantly connected with the world. I have access to a lot of applications, I learn new things every day on YouTube and I can interact with young people all over the world. I have developed a lot of networks. I have access to a lot of information now. My business English also has improved.
I know how to work with computers and always find what I am looking for.
Is there any advice you can give to other young women like you?
I would like to encourage girls and women like me to have no limits in learning and their professional development. We should adapt to the world's evolution and to the needs of job markets.
Strive to improve your digital skills so that you have the same knowledge and abilities as men. It is a concrete field in which many find themselves making a career after continuous studies.