GirlsGoIT programme helps girls pursue careers in Information Technology
Girls from rural areas in Moldova are empowered with skills in information technologies and artificial intelligence.
Mihaela, 18, knows her mission and what she wants for her future. With well-defined goals and an abundance of enthusiasm, she is looking forward to a life as one of Moldova's premier IT specialist. "In a few years, I will graduate and want to bring change, and support people who do not have IT skills but have great ideas," says Mihaela.
Two years ago, her passion for IT was formed with computer science classes at her high school in the Soldanesti district. Mihaela is from Domulgeni, a village in the Floresti district, in Northern Moldova. Every morning she takes a 25-km bus ride to school, like many other Moldovan children from small villages who want to access quality education services.
"In the 8th grade, I was already sure of my vocation in IT. I participated in all competitions, but my parents and my brother, a medical student, hoped I would become a doctor. One of my priorities was to show them I am good at IT. Thanks to the GirlsGoIT programme, I managed to convince them," says Mihaela.
She is referring to the training session that will begin in a few minutes for 20 girls from the Floresti district who want to explore the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, just as she once did. This time, Mihaela is participating as a mentor, and she beams with pride.
GirlsGoIT is a programme developed by TEKEDU and the Ministry of Education and Research, with UNICEF support. Girls aged 14 to 20 from all regions of the country participate in educational activities related to information technologies and artificial intelligence. Mihaela was 15 when she first heard of the programme and participated in a boot camp. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that all activities went online.
"I am happy that the programme is expanding to more rural localities like Floresti because all girls deserve equal opportunities. Somewhere, in a small village very far from Chisinau – there are girls who want to develop but does not have the necessary resources. We need to help them become our future colleagues, and this project could support them in fulfilling their dreams", says Mihaela, now one of the programme's Ambassadors.
For Mihaela, the launch of each GirlsGoIT boot camp is an opportunity to motivate other girls to pursue their dreams. Mihaela has held several internships in some of Moldova's most successful IT companies, where she was guided by specialists and learned about artificial intelligence, cyber security, and web development.
"Thanks to the programme, I participated in various competitions, where I was awarded, and my family is proud of me. My parents understood that nothing could stop me and that they just had to give me wings to fly," she says proudly.
While Mihaela show girls how to write code, Daniela, a new student, carefully analyzes the data on the computer screen covered with colored stickers, trying to complete all the tasks given by her mentor.
Daniela, 14, is from the Lunga, Floresti district, and she is also to discover her passion in IT and what she would like to become in the future. Her mother supports her wholeheartedly and advised her to attend this boot camp that is taking place over several weeks at the high school in Floresti.
"When I saw different codes and numbers online, I didn't understand anything, and it didn't seem easy. Now I think it's wow. I am thrilled to be here because, so far, I have encountered various stereotypes that only boys can develop in this field. I love computer science classes at school, and I will continue to participate in this project," says Daniela.
Since 2015, the GirlsGoIT programme has supported over 1,700 beneficiaries from 24 localities in Moldova, including refugees from Ukraine. Like Mihaela, who will continue her studies in IT after graduating high school, many other participants continue to develop in the STEM fields and to hopefully purse a career in IT.
Asked about the most beautiful part of information technologies and artificial intelligence, Mihaela says it is creativity that drives her the most.
"When you are a programmer, you have no limits. You can create absolutely everything whenever you need it, and you don't depend on the resources that are on the internet. Every small step I took, writing codes, were moments of happiness that push my desire to develop a career in information technologies," says Mihaela.
In 2022, to complement the GirlsGoIT programme, UNICEF and partners launched the STEAM on Wheels project to support more children in rural areas.
This is the first educational laboratory on wheels in Moldova, a bus equipped with robotics sets and laptops. The mobile lab travels all over the country and organizes workshops for girls and boys, including from refugee centers. To date, over 5,000 children and youths have participated in the activities.
Every child, regardless of race, gender, or environment, has the right to quality education to develop their full potential. UNICEF works to support education in all areas of the future, such as information technologies.
"One day, my brother, a future doctor, will become my colleague. I will create the necessary applications, and he will put them into practice to help patients," says Mihaela, looking to the future.
UNICEF thanks donors such as the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, for their support to the GirlsGoIT programme in Moldova.