Today, only 30 percent of women and girls worldwide choose STEM-related fields of study, and only 3 percent choose information and communications technology (ICT). Existing gender stereotypes and deep-rooted prejudices among the public hinder girls' interest in science and technology. UNDP activities aim to increase the number of women in STEM -related fields and digital careers, which will contribute to greater participation of girls and women in the country's economy.
In December 2021, the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Kazakhstan organized a two-week digital and leadership training for 100 girls from the cities of Satpayev and Zhezkazgan.
The girls gained skills in programming, website development and social media marketing. Part of the webinars was dedicated to developing participants' communication and leadership skills. The speakers were leading Kazakh experts in STEM education.
As a result of the two-week training, participants launched their digital projects, which ranged from helping homeless animals to fighting domestic violence, helping children in need, and creating career guidance information sites.
Two ideas were at the forefront. One of them was aimed at improving the environment and beautifying the city, the second at promoting the Kazakh language on the Internet. The latter became the winner of the contest. Its author, Dilnaz Iskakova, has long dreamed of starting such a project. The training gave her an impetus, equipped with knowledge and skills to turn the idea into reality.
Dilnaz believes that the existing Kazakh-language content available online today is not enough for a Kazakh-speaking audience.
"We all talk about the urgent need to promote and develop the Kazakh language, but little effort is made," Dilnaz shares her thoughts. - Of course, today there are many resources with Kazakh media, books and movies, online communities are also developing. But this is not enough, as the Kazakh-speaking audience is growing and the demand for content is also increasing.
After completing the training, Dilnaz created her own website in two days and set up an Instagram page to promote her content. She intends to promote the Kazakh language in the media through educational topics, including history and philosophical sciences.
"During the training, I gained knowledge of SMM and marketing, as well as insights into the specifics of a project manager's job. This will help me promote my project in the future. If I had the opportunity to rate the course on a 10-point scale, I would give it all 10 points," says Dilnaz.
The training not only helped Dilnaz and the other girls gain new knowledge, but also make new friends and like-minded people. The girls also had the opportunity to develop personally and learned how to speak in public.
"Thanks to the training, we have opened up a horizon of opportunities in the freelance market. We gained the skills to bring our ideas to life - we created a plan, identified the target audience, and found tools that will help us develop content. Also, during the course, I learned about the possibility of receiving a grant. This helped me gain additional resources to develop my project," says Dilnaz.
"In the future, I would like to organize meetings with teachers, professors and researchers on my internet platforms so that they can share their knowledge with the public. I hope that the skills I learned in the training will help me monetize my project so that I can sustain it," she adds.
Dilnaz believes that such courses will help close the gender gap in ICT. Today, girls are succeeding in science, but the insecurities that accompany girls from school age create barriers to realizing their potential in ICT. "Many girls think ICT-related careers are not for them. Training like this helps motivate girls, equip them with digital skills and close the digital gender gap," says Dilnaz.