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CoConeck aspires to empower Tongan women in ICT

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27th August, 2018 A newly-formed group made up of women dubbed as CoConeck is seeking to encourage and promote women in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), a field that is dominated by male in Tonga.

The group had its first meeting last month at Friends Café, attended by seven women who are currently working as computer programmers and network engineers in line ministries and the private sector.

The name CoConeck was agreed upon by the group after the first meeting; ‘CoCo’ stands for coconuts which represent islanders and ‘neck’ stands for its connection to the world wide web of Technology.

Coconeck is a group of like-minded women who are passionate about ICT. We understand that there are very few women in this field so we decided to setup this group as a platform to drive and encourage our fellow colleagues in the field.

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 whereby she has been approached to conduct a presentation and talk on the new initiative they have setup.

ENDS

Issued by the: Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications

 

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