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“Decoding” the Sustainable Development Goals, empowering marginalized girls in Africa


Unilever and iamtheCODE launch a series of events, dubbed hackathons, in Africa as a way of empowering young marginalized girls decode the UN Sustainable Development Goals and find solutions to immediate challenges.

Kids doing experiment

In August 2018, 80 girls aged between 11-16 years from marginalized regions across Kenya came together at Unilever Kenya in the first ever Hackathon to learn computer programming whilst finding local solutions based on four UN Sustainable Development Goals; ‘Quality Education’, ‘Gender Equality’, ‘Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure’ and ‘Life on Land’.

The series of events to be rolled out in different parts of Africa are aimed at helping address the STEAMED (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship and Design) skills shortage in the most marginalized communities, as well as inspiring the next generation of young women and girls digital leaders.

“Unilever has a simple but clear purpose – to make sustainable living commonplace. We believe this is the best long-term way for our business to grow. I urge the business community at large to ensure that they create purposeful brands and businesses so as to play their pivotal role in creating a brighter future for all.” said Justin Apsey, MD for Unilever East Africa.

The event was graced and facilitated by Marieme Jamme, founder of IamtheCODE, working closely with mentors from Unilever and likeminded partners from organizations like Safaricom-Women in Technology, UNICEF, UN Women and Global Shapers.

Kid talking to his teacher
Empowering marginalized girls in Africa

The sessions were divided into an Education and a Technology day where the girls had an opportunity to understand the UN goals, interact with the technology and come up with solutions. They also listened to inspiring stories from the different partners and shared their stories too. Using specially designed computers (Kano Kits and BBC Microbits), the girls assembled them and got to the business of writing computer code for the solutions they identified that tackled early childhood marriage, access to medical care, reduction in deforestation, increasing employment and cleaning up the environment by reducing litter.

These solutions were reviewed by a panel of judges with the winning idea being awarded the Kofi Anan SDG price. The top ideas presented will be followed up with a 12-week mentoring program to further improve on the ideas and the move them into feasibility. This will also offer an opportunity to continue build the girls skills’ set through the digital clubs that will be set up in their localities.

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