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Guest Blog by Hital Muraj: Investing in Our Future Generation of Girls in Nairobi

On Friday 4th June, 2010, a group of ITE students from the Cisco Seed academy held a picnic at the Nairobi Arboretum. The picnic was sponsored by Ayelet Baron, Cisco Director Emerging markets. In attendance were 14 students (12 girls and two boys) from the Seed academy, two instructors from the academy and a Canadian social worker who works in the  community where the academy is situated. Apparently, house girls are often looked down upon in our society and many of them have resigned to hopelessness and feel alienated and deprived of a chance to fulfill their dreams. 

The students got a chance to interact and learn a lot from various speakers who included: Charity Jones (Cisco HR Manager), Constantine Obuya (Director, Africa centre for women in IT), Alice Muigai (Flexi Personnel Director), Himesh (Karma Foundation) and the girls got a chance to learn how to apply make up too.

The event started with a tour of the Nairobi Arboretum. The Arboretum, set in the centre of the capital of Kenya, consists of 30 hectares containing a large collection of trees and shrubs from the tropics both native and from throughout the world. It has developed from a trial arboretum at the beginning of the twentieth century to a green refuge from the bustle of the city and a place for learning about biodiversity.

The students later engaged in team building activities and played some games. The objective of the event was to motivate the girls, help them to bond and feel loved, help them to build their self confidence and help to believe that they are valuable and have a skill that is in demand.

During the picnic, the students had participatory sessions with the speakers who took them through various aspects of mentorship and soft skills’ orientation. Charity from Cisco led a discussion on how to prepare for a job interview; Alice talked to the students about the “Power of Postive Thinking” and she shared a lot of inspiring stories about Kenyan girls who are successful. This was complimented by Himesh who led the students in taking part in group activities. In one of the activities, the students were asked to express their dreams visually through diagrams and the results were simply amazing. The students were not only creative in their ideas but also exhibited a strong desire and ambition to succeed in life by having their dreams fulfilled. He also showed them a few yoga tips to help them calm down and relax.

Constantine Obuya who is the Director of ACWICT talked to the students about her life history, how she faced challenges but managed to succeed in her career and she is now studying at this age! She also spoke to them about her experience in the academy progam and how her girls are getting jobs through the program. She advised the girls to always aim high and turn any huddles in their lives into opportunities. She challenged them to take the ICT training seriously as this is a sure way to guarantee them a better future.

The students then had pizza and coke for lunch and continued to play games and bond with each other. By the end of the day – the girls had totally opened up and were talking confidently and were willing to open up and ask questions and participate actively in the sessions.

During the Q and A session, the students expressed their gratitude to Cisco for giving them such a unique chance to interact and enjoy a new and fresh atmosphere away from their usual environment. They enjoyed the pizza, which was a first time for many of them, they also loved the games they played. They were absolutely impressed with the speakers and had very good things to say about each of the speaker.

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Creating Greater Equity with Emerging Technologies in Kenya

I recently went to Nairobi, Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda to meet with some of Cisco’s employees, customers and partners.  I have a lot to share and this is the first in a series on what I learned and experienced.

I visited The Seed Institute Cisco Networking Academy on May 25th and it was a life changing experience in so many ways. Most of all it showed how emerging technologies can create opportunities by providing access to new skills. The Academy is in the Mwiki Slum in Kasarani, Nairobi and trains girls and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is the first of its kind to train house girls and with the hope to help them get better jobs. More specifically, the goal is to train women and youth on ICT skills with two groups:

  • Housegirls: are girls who do house chores such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. They get paid up to $50 per month from which they have to feed their families, pay fees for their siblings’ education and a host of other fees. These girls are forced to drop out of school and are unable to get a university education. To get the girls to attend, Cisco and Seed leaders needed to convince the house girls’ employers to allow them to attend IT Essentials classes during the day.
  • “Hasslers:” are women who have faced many hassles including rape, sexual abuse by their own relatives; some are commercial sex workers who are trying to transform their lives. They hold regular sessions with them on job opportunities available for in the ICT field, the need to get certified and have a valuable skill that will change their lives.

These girls and women receive the opportunity to change their lives as they can transition from part of the population who does not even get counted in national statistics to being able to get a job that requires IT skills.  Rosemary Muthoni, a graduate from the Academy, managed to get placed in a workshop for computer repair two weeks after completing the coursework.

The workshop where they learn basic IT skills

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Sam Rizvi attempts to become first Indian to Ride Across America… with Cisco

We are sponsoring Indian endurance cyclist Samim Rizvi in his quest to become the first Indian to ride from West to East Coast.  The race started on Wed June 9th in Oceanside, California and ends in Annapolis, Maryland -- and has to be completed in 12 days.   That said, Sam is trying to knock this off in 9…   Bay area-based blogger and journalist Kamla Bhatt spoke to Sam just before the start of the race and he explains what this race is all about, how he trained for this (riding on bumpy roads in India) and exactly why he wanted to get involved in this enterprise in the first place.  Sam is probably India’s leading endurance athlete and has run halfway across India in the past.

Listen to the podcast here:


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Transforming the Copper Industry

Howard Charney, Cisco’s senior vice president, visited Chile last week to participate as a key note speaker at the IT Codelco seminar, where key technology providers analyzed and discussed with the Codelco management team how technology and innovation is helping to solve some of the challenges of the mining industry in Chile and how to multiply its productivity. Codelco is the main copper producer in the world, and the event took place in Calama city, where the Chuquicamata and Radomiro Tomic mines are located.

During his presentation Howard Charney talked about “IT Trends and their Impact on Business and Society” describing the impact of ICT on development, productivity and quality of life. “The smart world is about the total diffusion of IP – not just to people but to places and things. Codelco is obviously a brilliant example of that. You are pioneers in GPS and RFID, mobile applications, wireless technologies, robotics, video, and virtualization.  Well, going forward that kind of sophistication is going to become widespread in every sector of the economy”, said Charney.

Charney visited the Radomiro Tomic mine, which has actually been merged with Chuquicamata, becoming the biggest open pit mines of the world. The mine uses a Cisco Wireless Mesh solution to connect and centrally manage its operations.

Howard describes, on site at the Radomiro Tomic mine, how information technology is increasing the efficiency of its operations:


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Why You Won’t Want to Tangle With Teacher over IT in Sri Lanka

Despite often being billed as paradise, the nation of Sri Lanka has not always had it easy. A 25-year-long civil war and the 2004 tsunami are among the tragedies that have beset the country.

So it is good to report that Sinhalese children, at least, will soon benefit from top-notch IT teaching thanks to an initiative involving the Cisco Networking Academy.

The initiative, taking place now at the Ruwanpura National College of Education for Information and Communication Technology, involves giving classroom teachers a Networking Academy-based crash course in IT and networking.

It follows government moves to move the country forward following the end of the war and kicked off last year, which was the year of IT and English in Sri Lanka.

The Sinhalese government feels technology skills are such a high priority for its teachers that it has made the college an IT teacher training center only, and changed its name (previously it was called the Ruwanpura National College of Education) at an inauguration attended by the President.

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