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Women want equality in ICT field

The CoCoNet members. Photo: MEIDECC

NUKU’ALOFA-August 27, 2018: 5.52pm (Nuku’alofa Times): A group of local women want to promote more of their own in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) because they feel that it is being dominated by locals here in Tonga.

The women have formed a group called CoConeck.

They want to promote more women joining the ICT sector.

Group members currently work in the field – within the civil service and private sector.

A meeting at the Friends Café last month got the ball rolling.

CoCo’ stands for coconuts which represent islanders and ‘neck’ stands for its connection to the world wide web of Technology.

Senior System Analyst Seluvaia Kauvaka, who is currently working for the Ministry of MEIDECC, said that she shared her idea to form a group with other female colleagues a few years back but they never got around to meet and discuss the way forward.

It was not until Selu attended a training in Solomon Islands where they have a strong group of women in ICT operating there that she felt it was about time to have this in Tonga.  She then emailed her fellow colleagues in various line ministries and invited them for coffee.

“I came back, talked to a couple of girls and we met for coffee. After the first meeting we elected a president Ms. Malia Fa’asolo from the Ministry of Public Enterprises and a Vice-President Ms. Gina Mahe from Tonga Communications Corporation.”

Selu said that most of the members shared similar experiences:

  • Discrimination: women working in IT positions reported gender inequality at a higher rate than the overall average among employed women. Most of the networking opportunities and promotions go to men in tech careers.\
  • Lack of confidence: women in male-dominated fields such as ICT often lack self-confidence and feel that they are inferior.
  • Female IT engineers feel that they don’t have the full support of their coworkers. Handling inequality and discrimination in the workplace is hard on its own, but handling it without any support for the chosen career makes things even harder.

To counter such negative experiences Selu said the group will “work together to support each other and find ways to increase the number of ICT technical and administration engineers” in Tonga.

Apart from empowering women in ICT the group hopes to encourage girls to study ICT, assist in developing ICT in the country, conduct school talks on ICT, cybercrime and technical aspects, host hackathons for students and to have more women in decision making roles in ICT.

“We are currently designing a logo for the group, create a Facebook page for awareness and in the future we want to design a website for CoConeck.”

Selu said that the group will have its second meeting on the first week of September as five of the members will be traveling to New Caledonia to attend APNIC’s 46 Conference & Training next month.

She has also been invited to do a presentation and talk on the new initiative they have setup.

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