Conversations with partners: HapaSpace
HapaSpace are making change happen. We recently spoke with our partners over at the HapaSpace innovation hub in Ghana, to find out how they are addressing the digital gender divide in Africa. From supporting women-led tech start-ups to developing youths STEM skills, this hub is facing the challenge of Bridging the Digital Gender Divide head on.
- Tell us about your organisation. What is your mission and what do you do?
HapaSpace was founded as part of the response to assist young adults in the city of Kumasi, Ghana. We offer support in building technology-based start-ups, as well as developing individual’s STEM skills and providing a co-working space for them.
Our mission is to provide entrepreneurial, employability and business support services for the youth in Kumasi, to build successful and sustainable businesses for African economic development and impact with emphasis on technology.
2. How does your organisation currently contribute to Bridging the Digital Gender Divide (BDGD) in Ghana?
We make a conscious effort to be a part of the solution. Within recent years we have led on several flagship programmes including ‘Code4Girls’, which aimed to further develop girls’ ICT skills across 12 schools in Accra and Kumasi. The programme provided training in HTML, CSS and Website design. We provided training for ICT mentors within schools to further student’s knowledge.
We also organize gatherings and workshops focused on WordPress training for women in the community. This program aims to improve their website development skills so that they can enhance their businesses online.
These are just a few of the many programs and collaborations we have been working at HapaSpace to help overcome the digital gender divide in Ghana.
3. What successes have you had in contributing to BDGD?
Our key successes have been the aforementioned courses, which have collectively aimed to tackle the issue of BDGD on a number of levels. Firstly, we have ensured that girls have resources in place to further develop their technological interests beyond that of current school curriculums. Secondly, our programs have also allowed us to reach women wanting to develop their tech skills. This has provided them with resources to access the limitless benefits of building their start-ups online.
4. What challenges have you faced in BDGD?
The biggest challenges we face come from culture and resources. Parents/society consciously and unconsciously orient their daughters to enter jobs requiring empathy such as teaching, nursing, and trading. This means that to achieve the overall goal of assisting women in taking up careers or starting businesses in the tech industry, aside from offering the technical training, we have to offer psychological support to get their families to buy into the idea.
Secondly, implementing programs or projects targeted at achieving gender inclusion in the digital space is demanding resource-wise. Physical equipment, facilitation, mentorship, gathering family support, psychology prepping and after-training support tend to overstretch resources. Thereby, affecting the number of beneficiaries and sustainability of such projects.
Lastly, most actors and stakeholders in the ecosystem are yet to design proper women-focused services to support investment or programs for women. To design comprehensive programs for women, as hubs we need to collaborate with other actors in the ecosystem. The few programs or services by other actors like the government, corporate institutions, NGOs, financial institutions, etc. are still at the experiment or pilot phases especially in tech which makes it challenging to incorporate or leverage them to design complete support programs for women.
5. What are your organisation’s plans to bridge the digital gender divide going forward?
We hope to develop our current programmes further. Riding on the success and the lessons learnt from the first edition we are planning to organise Code4Girls 2.0. This is we believe is the perfect time, as it would help compliment the new curriculum by Ghana Education Services which includes computer programming languages for Basic and Second cycle institutions.
We also hope to run programs for women-led start-ups to teach them how to leverage the various digital tools available for various business processes, so that they can maximise their operations. Alongside this, we hope to introduce the Google virtual workspace which will give start-ups the opportunity to subscribe to the Google virtual workspace at discounted rates making remote working more achievable without compromising output. Finally, we will aim to develop our current graduate internships programme and gender policy to achieve gender mainstreaming.
6. What is your vision for the future when it comes to the participation of African women and girls in the digital world?
Our vision is simple, we hope to see a community of youths, unleashing their talents through sustainable tech-driven businesses.