Driving inclusion of young women in Western Kenya in tech through the #FemiDevs programme

UNDP KENYA
4 min readNov 8, 2022

If you walk into almost any Computer Science class in a university or college in Kenya, you will most likely find just a handful of women as compared to men. Generally, there is an underrepresentation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in institutions of higher learning in Kenya.

Photo: FemiDevs in Kisumu (UNDP Kenya)

A 2019 study showed that only 37% of the students who enrolled for universities and colleges that year were women. According to 2019 data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, only 8% of the population of people above 15 years old who are trained and qualified in Engineering and Technology are women. The good news is that there are many concerted efforts being made to provide technical training and mentorship to young women across Kenya through programmes like Akirachix and Kamilimu. This blog highlights a good case in point, the “FemiDevs” programme which is enhancing digital inclusion for women by providing relevant and employable skills for the digital economy.

Graph 1 showing gender distribution in select STEM fields (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2019)

Partnership with Lake Hub

In November 2021, UNDP Kenya partnered with Lake Hub to co-design and implement digital skills training programmes for young women in Western Kenya. Dubbed “FemiDevs” the intention of this one-year engagement is to enhance digital inclusion for women by providing relevant and employable skills for the digital economy. This is through immersive, hands-on training on relevant digital technology skills, mentorship, soft skills training, and facilitating linkages to employment opportunities through internships. Under UNDP’s ongoing ‘Strengthening COVID-19 Response for Kenya’ project, about 200 young women in Kisumu, Busia and Migori have been enrolled in the FemiDevs programme, by working with local partners like Rongo University, Border Hub and Pillars Care Foundation.

Photo: FemiDevs in Busia (UNDP Kenya)

Through the training, the young women are gaining skills in front-end and back-end web development, which includes programming languages like JavaScript and CSS and practical tools like Canva and Figma. Of the 200 participants, 28% of the young women have recently completed high school, while 26% and 47% are undergoing or have completed college and university education respectively. Majority of the FemiDevs participants are under the age of 35 and the graph below shows the age distribution across the 3 locations. 5 of the participants are persons with disabilities.

Graph 2 showing age distribution of the FemiDevs in Kisumu, Busia, and Migori

The faces behind #FemiDevs

Photo: FemiDevs in Kisumu (Lake Hub)

Lorna is a 25-year-old young woman from Kisumu who recently completed the FemiDevs training as part of the first cohort earlier in the year. Through Lake Hub, she was able to get connected to an internship opportunity at a local organization in Kisumu and get the opportunity to apply the digital skills gained. “We get to transfer the knowledge that we learnt in class to the companies that we are in,” says Lorna. 25 out of 40 FemiDevs alumna from the first cohort were able to successfully transition into internships within Kisumu while the some of the rest opted to pursue entrepreneurship.

Priscillah, a 24-year-old FemiDevs alumnus who went on to win the #HackTheCity Hackathon at the 2022 AfriCities Summit is working on developing her winning solution with the prize money from the hackathon. Bellah is a 21-year-old Diploma student and FemiDevs alumnus who is currently developing their innovation into a full-fledged start-up called Farminika, a tech-based platform to connect farmers to agricultural services, with support from the imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge. Sharon, a 31-year-old nurse in Busia, plans to use the skills she learns to scale her advocacy efforts on albinism in Busia through her organization, Empowered Albinism Group.

Photo: FemiDevs in Migori (UNDP Kenya)

What’s next for FemiDevs

The last cohort of FemiDevs will be wrapping up in November 2022 and we are continuing to make efforts to connect the alumna with relevant partners to catalyse their employment and entrepreneurship journeys after the training. For some of the young women particularly in Busia and Migori, this has been their first time interacting with a computer and they are keen to share what they have learned with their family and friends which will no doubt create a transformative effect in these communities for hopefully many generations.

Photo: UNDP Kenya

Authored by: Lillian Njoro, Head of Experimentation, UNDP Accelerator Lab

About the author

Lillian Njoro is the Head of Experimentation at UNDP Accelerator Lab Kenya and the Co-Chair for the UNDP Youth Sounding Board. She has a chemical engineering background and is a curious thinker with a passion for storytelling, innovation, and social impact.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of UNDP.

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UNDP KENYA

In #Kenya, UNDP works with the Government and communities towards inclusive and sustainable socio-economic and human development. https://www.ke.undp