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4 Zimbabwean Women Participate in US Tech Program

Four young Zimbabweans arrived Tuesday in the United States to participate in the 2014 TechWomen program, geared at enhancing their work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics over the next few weeks.

TechWomen is an initiative by the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affair, launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011, to support women and girls participation in the technology industry.

The four women Beverley Nyakutsikwa, Lilian Mapuranga, Lodrina Ngaakudzwe, and Trish Nyarumbu, all hail from technology, science or engineering backgrounds.

Over the next five weeks, the four women from Zimbabwe, are among others from 74 nations including South Africa, Rwanda, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, who will engage in project-based mentorships at leading companies, participate in professional development workshops and networking events.

The women known as "emerging leaders" will be paired with a volunteer professional mentor who works closely with the participant to design and implement a project at their host company.

Director of strategic partnerships, Heather Ramsey, of the Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives at the Institute of International Education, which manages TechWomen, said the program has gone far in enriching the participants while in the US and upon their return to their home countries.

She said over the past four years 156 alumni of the program have gone to make changes for women and girls in their communities.

“We have a group in South Africa which started an initiative called Taguna and this project brings girls from various parts of South Africa as well as Zimbabwe to come together to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering and math and it coaches them on academics, career paths and provides them with individual mentors,” said Ramsey.

Other alumni from Egypt, who joined the program during its first year, created a company called Teenpreneur to support young women interested in starting their own projects, providing resources, coaching, helping with business plans and access to technology that is not readily available.

Ramsey added that with many success stories, the impact of the program and its alumni has gone far and beyond.

“What’s been really amazing about the program is that it’s really created a very strong and tight-knit network of women working in these fields across the United States and these 16 countries that are supporting each other,” said Ramsey.

In addition to having professional mentors, each participant is paired with a volunteer cultural mentor who facilitates enrichment activities to deepen mutual understanding and help the participants acclimatize in the San Francisco area.