Code for a new life: Chamatech teaches girls computer skills

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Pregnant teenage girls carry babies in their arms. These girls are daughters of women who also conceived at puberty and at 30 are already grandmothers. In disadvantaged communities, the cycle of young women and girls abandoning their studies for early motherhood and a life of working hard for little money continues.

Daniela Ropero, a 29-year-old social activist, has spoken with these girls and listened to their concerns. Two years ago, she founded Soy Mujer, an organization in favor of women’s rights. Through her work Ropero realized the sheer mass of young girls, barely women, caught up in teenage pregnancy and motherhood.

According to the statistics by the population fund of the United Nations, based on data provided by the state, 101 of every 1000 women who give birth in Venezuela are under 18 years old, making Venezuela the South American country with the highest youth pregnancy rate.

Ropero wondered how to change that.

She met with a team of educators, sociologists and psychologists. After several analysis sessions, they decided to approach the problem with education and technology. They designed Chamatech, a 9-month training program – the same duration of the gestation of a baby – aimed at girls from vulnerable communities in Caracas, where teen pregnancy rates are usually higher.

They give girls computer skills to empower them in a field that in 2020 may be producing 1.4 million jobs.

The program is divided into 3 levels. Girls learn web programming tools, html language and code, to create web pages and digital applications. Chamatech also raises awareness on issues of equality, respect and gender equity.

“Technology is related to this generation and can be very useful. Education is an effective channel to show them what they are capable of. The idea is to take them out for a moment of how violent or complex their day-to-day lives can be in these communities. We want to break the vicious circle. We are using technology to show them that they have life options other than pregnancy,” says Ropero.

Chamatech hosts more than 20 girls who meet once a week to improve their computer skills with the help of professionals (Photo Credits: Chamatech)

Chamatech hosts more than 20 girls who meet once a week to improve their computer skills with the help of professionals (Photo Credits: Chamatech)

The project began in October 2017 in La Vega, an extensive slum embedded in mountains southwest of Caracas. In the neighbourhoods of Los Cangilones and San Miguel, more than 20 girls meet once a week. The participants receive classes from two computer scientists, who volunteer their time. In each session, the girls receive lunch and a snack thanks to donations from private institutions.

At the end of the program’s pilot run, which ends in August 2018, the girls must have created a digital project providing a solution to some problem in their community. They are currently designing web pages, rehearsing models and making tests.

Although the first cohort has not yet completed its training process, Chamatech opened the registration for the next one, which will be implemented in Petare, one of the largest and most populated slums in Latin America, located east of Caracas. More than 100 applications have been received from teenagers who want to participate.

“While we are just beginning, that enthusiasm can be an indicator that we are on the right track,” says Ropero.

“We are programming the future, a future full of opportunities.”

Rossiely Cerezo is one of the participants. She is 16 years old, and in her fourth year of high school. She says she is very animated by what she has learned in Chamatech.

“There is a lot to do for the country, every day I intend to finish the baccalaureate and continue the university. Definitely Venezuelans can achieve the nation we want.”

Erick Lezema