First national hackathon for adolescent girls held to promote digital skills

Joint Press Release

30 September 2023
A group photo
UNICEF Bhutan/2023/SPelden

Gelephu, September 30, 2023: The first national hackathon for adolescent girls concluded today in Gelephu with the teams pitching innovative ideas using technology to address problems in their communities.

Engaging 28 adolescents from seven districts, the four-day hackathon comprised of sessions on Neural networks, Space technology, Data Science AI and digital literacy as well as mentorship from GovTech Agency resource persons.

Organised by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, and the Gov Tech Agency in partnership with UNICEF, the hackathon was held to inspire adolescent girls to explore the opportunities technology has to offer in designing solutions and to narrow the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

Globally, females represent less than 30 per cent of the global STEM workforce. In Bhutan, around 67.8  per cent of youth between 15-24 years are without digital skills according to the World Skills Clock, which monitors learning and skills trajectories globally and at the country level using a real time data model.

Even if access to technology may not be a major issue for young people including adolescent girls in urban centers, affordability to avail digital devices limits their learning opportunities in the country.

It is for these reasons and to empower adolescent girls with digital skills, the hackathon was organised, said the Deputy Chief Counsellor with the Department of Education Programmes, Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Amrith Bdr Subba.

“The hackathon was held to encourage more girls to take up STEM education and enable them to use technology to find innovative solutions to problems in the communities,” he said.

Following the call for ideas for the hackathon, the division received 43 ideas from 129 schools and 10 youth centres out of which seven were short listed for the hackathon in Gelephu. The seven teams including one from a youth centre competed for seed funding.

Buli Central School’s idea to design automatic streetlights to provide safety in the school campus won first place while Khuruthang Youth Centre in Punakha won second place for their idea to develop a mobile application that would encourage students to take up STEM subjects. Gomtu Higher Secondary School’s idea to develop a mobile application to promote local arts and crafts won third place.

UNICEF Bhutan Representative Andrea James said adolescent girls often face significant barriers to education, economic opportunity, and health care, which can limit their ability to fully participate in society and reach their full potential.

“Empowering our adolescent girls through platforms such as this hackathon will help them overcome barriers and take up opportunities that STEM education has to offer,” Andrea James said.

The hackathon was organised in partnership with UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia and Women in Tech Maldives to support girls and young women in South Asia, especially the marginalized are able to succeed in an increasingly global, digital and hyperconnected world.


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