Miss.Africa Digital Program recently caught up with Mrs. Setsoto Hlohlomi, Founder and President : BasaliTech, a Lesotho registered nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable opportunities for women and children interested in learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), from relevant applications and gadgets to software development, electronics and robotics, through in-person classes, workshops, seminars and community support. This is to protect their futures by introducing them to a growing field in the market and to address the gender gap in STEM
1. Can you tell us about this project that has applied for the 2019 Miss.Africa Digital Seed Fund Awards?
Lesotho Code Diva’s is a BasaliTech initiative which aims to interest and engage young girls and in special occasions children of all gender in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics related activities to help them secure their futures. The 4th industrial Revolution is here and it is anticipated that soon, close to 80% of jobs will require some form of STEM education – Lilian Barnard: Microsoft and we aim to equip these young girls with the skills to participate in an era and economy where technology dominates.
We train these young girls and children technology related skills such as introduction to computing, programming, electronics and robotics in various forms to expose the diversity that exists in STEM. The curriculum for every session is tailored to suit the skill level and need for the participants, usually the more remote areas of Lesotho are less exposes to STEM and usually need the most basic trainings
The trainings are then supplemented by follow up sessions and for the girls we include a voluntary mentoring program (which can also be applied for by females who have not attended any training). The mentoring program pairs young girls who are enrolled in STEM related courses and those aspiring to undertake them and pairs them with female professionals to provide academic and career advice
2. What are some of the challenges you are trying to address with your project?
One challenge we are trying to address is the gender parity in STEM, we aim to encourage young girls to take part in STEM courses and consequently STEM careers
The other challenge is lack of quality STEM education in remote areas which usually lack the resources to carry out such education in an effective manner
The current curriculum has not evolved yet to provide skills relevant to the 4th Industrial revolution and we wish to supplement such curricula by providing skills that will help the young girls thrive in the future of work
3. How are you bringing innovative approaches to these problems?
We provide trainings that usually expose the diversity in STEM fields, introduction to computing, programming and electronics and robotics hence exposing the girls to a diverse set of skills
Once we have piqued these girls interest in STEM, we give them the opportunity to join the mentoring program where we pair them with female industry professionals to guide them academically and professionally through the experience. This program is voluntary and can be applied for outside any training for interested girls
We provide mobile training to reach the most remote areas of the country where opportunities are often rare
4. How does it feel to gain international recognition for your work?
We are already overwhelmed with the support we have received in Lesotho this far and the fact that we have made it this far has left us speechless and we could not have been more proud to be amongst some of the best initiatives in Africa
4. Can you explain why skills for women in tech is so important?
Firstly, I would like to align with the UNDP SGD 5 of gender equality and SDG 10 of reduced inequalities which include empowering women and young girls through technology as a way of contributing towards a country’s development
In most household’s women are the primary caretakers of children and therefore nurturing love of technology in women and young girls will help create generations of children who will thrive in the future
5. What in your opinion should be done to address the digital skills gap in Africa?
I believe that first we need to create an economy fit enough for women to participate so that they can easily be absorbed once such sills have been presented to them
Work together as males and females to achieve the intended gender balance and not see a threat when some opportunities are presented to women to encourage their participation and therefore this requires us to engage males to be champions of this change.
Setsoto Hlohlomi, Founder and President : BasaliTech
BasaliTech PTY is a Lesotho registered nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable opportunities for women and children interested in learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), from relevant applications and gadgets to software development, electronics and robotics, through in-person classes, workshops, seminars and community support. This is to protect their futures by introducing them to a growing field in the market and to address the gender gap in STEM