By Hawwah Abdullahi Gambo
“I always say the future is female, but indeed technology is the future.”
On this International Day of the Girl Child, I urge all of us to look for ways to empower girls to access technology, so that they may have the best chance of succeeding in life.
I dare say, I am where I am because I have always embraced and maximized the opportunities technology has provided me. As a child I learnt my ABCs at home while watching Sesame Street in the early 1980s. And from my ABCs, I learnt to put ABCDE together to form words and eventually a few sentences. By the time I was enrolled in school at the age of 9, I could speak basic English even though it was not the language we used at home. I still remember the impressed look on the face of my school principal on my first day of school after I had successfully answered all of her questions. She declared that I was not only too old to be in first year, but that I was ready to be in the next class.
While television shaped my childhood, radio shaped my teenage years. By the time I started secondary school, I was the best at comprehension and English language, not because I was better than anyone else, but because I listened to as many radio and English programs as possible. I could read English texts, comprehend complex sentences, as well as write them before I was 15 — an extreme rarity in those times.
I was able to succeed in my career as an adul
t not because I had any support, motivation, or inspiration from my society, but because I was blessed to have technology in my life and because I deliberately put in the effort to maximize its potential. While others were being entertained by a show, I picked up new words and lessons from the lines. While others listened to the sound of the music, I learned the lyrics. While everyone enjoyed the movie, I scrutinized the dialogue for new words, phrases, and expressions.
I grew up without mentors. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find any within my community. It was on television that I met the amazing women who inspired and motivated me to be more than a wife and mother: Oprah Winfrey, Christiane Amanpour, Ronke Ayuba, Hauwa Baba Ahmed to name a few. It would not be wrong to say, if not for the technology that provided me with a means to see what women could achieve, I would have believed what I had always been told: that my only potential in life was to be a good wife and good mother. Indeed, if it weren’t for technology, I would probably be like many girls in my peer group who had dreams and are equally as brilliant and talented, but who ended up limiting themselves to live as only wives and mothers.
By the time I hit midlife and decided I needed to turn my life around, technology was not just my mental escape route: It provided me with a way out of the sinkhole. Tech enabled me to transform my ideas into reality. It opened me up to opportunities I never imagined I would have, and possibilities I never thought existed.
Gradually, girls who are afforded access to technology will grow into their fullest potential. Technology will help them achieve that, for it is a leveller and equal opportunity provider that does not discriminate nor have any prejudices but respects the will and determination of a person to grow.
Ensuring all women and girls all over the world have access to technology is not only imperative, but necessary as it holds within it abundant resources to allow them to succeed.
Technology enables young women to network, socialize, find mentors, be educated, develop self-confidence, and learn about things like their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Technology can help girls access information and opportunities, and even gain self-esteem and understanding of their own value— opportunities previous generations of women have lacked.
I always say the future is female, but indeed technology is the future. We therefore need it to reach every woman and every girl child — because technology is the platform they need to soar.
This story won the World Pulse International Day of the Girl Child story award.