Innocent Mbanda is a social entrepreneur and founder of Igire Rwanda Foundation, an organisation that works with youth to help them become self-reliant socio-economically, through entrepreneurship, capacity building and varied opportunities.
One of their projects is the SheCan Code programme that was initiated this year. It mainly empowers women and young girls to join the digital economy and also have access to digital skills.
He talked to Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about his organisation’s achievements and plans.
What inspired the SheCan Code programme?
I started by having a passion for technology. While at university, the girls were very few compared to the boys, and seeing how technology is now controlling our daily life, but also how as a community, women and girls don’t have access to technology compared to men.
I then sought ways to bridge the gap and help include more girls in the tech industry so that they are not excluded but rather included, to support the country’s economic growth and be able to compete with other tech savvies.
How do you see the future of girls in technology, in this country?
The future is bright for them, only if they work hard and if more initiatives and projects, that support girls in technology, are put in place.
Our goal for next year, is to set up an entrepreneurship hub, specifically for women that will be focusing more on women and girls wishing to be part of technology, which will be able to increase the number of beneficiaries that we have so far.
We will also go to different secondary schools so that we can start supporting them at a young age.
What can you say you have achieved so far that you are proud of?
We have achieved a lot. When we started, out of passion we organised different workshops but with some of the practical projects, so far we have trained over 70 girls at our training center and we had over 100 girls on our online platform, in partnership with Progate, a Japanese company.
We also partner with the US embassy in Rwanda and other Japanese companies and next year we are looking to partner with more companies.
What has challenged you the most?
One of the challenges include limited space. The US Embassy provides us space to use but because they use the same space for other activities, we have to cut down on the time for the training and our curriculum.
Our wish is to have space which we can use 24 hours so that our participants can come to our training center any time, have mentors, and access to the internet.
We also have young girls from poor backgrounds who are interested in the program but do not have computers to use.
Our goal is that next year we are able to have our own training center so that our students can have access to computers, and bring in more activities like women leadership so that we not only empower them in technology but other important aspects like soft skills that can enable them to compete not only locally but also internationally.
Are there any other plans?
We have received feedback from different players that we have worked with so far, and we have learned that our students are competent in what they do, but in terms of soft skills like team work, leadership, they are still behind and so they have requested that we have a curriculum that covers soft skills.
Also as an organisation, we don’t work with young women only, we also work with boys so next year we will develop a curriculum on soft skills which we think fresh graduates can participate in and acquire these important skills.
What would you tell young people that are looking to be tech savvy?
To be innovative and use technology to provide solutions that we need in our communities. The youth need to step up and innovate more great projects.