By Lakhram BhagiratAll over the world, women are entering traditionally male-dominated fields with the aim of breaking or bridging the gender disparity. In Guyana, it is no different as the Public Telecommunications Ministry in collaboration with the University of Guyana and the Education Ministry launched its inaugural Guyanese Girl Code Initiative.Over 40 girls will be taught both theoretical and practical coding by instructors from the University of Guyana Computer Science Department and NCERD for the next 12 weeks as a part of the inaugural Guyanese Girls Code Initiative.Some of the girls and their parentsThe pilot programme targets girls between the ages of 11 to 14 years and is aimed at addressing the gender disparity in Guyana’s ICT sector. The girls from Forms One to Three are from the St Roses High, Charlestown Secondary, St Stanislaus High, Mackenzie High, St Johns College, Richard Ishmael Secondary, Matthews Ridge Primary, Bishops’ High, Queens College, L’Aventure Secondary, Central High, Hope Secondary, North Ruimveldt Secondary, Mae’s Schools, Cove and John Secondary, Annandale Secondary, St Margaret’s Primary, Skeldon High, Tutorial High, Cummings Lodge Secondary, Berbice High and West Demerara Secondary.Coordinator of the programme, Donella Collison, said the girls are coming from all over Guyana just to be a part of the sessions. She explained that they initially catered for 20 girls but because of the overwhelming response, they had to extend that number.The programme is expected to run for four hours on Saturdays so as to not disturb the schooling of the girls and will see them being split into two groups; one set hosted at UG and the other at NCERD.Public Telecommunication Minister Cathy HughesAccording to Collison, they are hoping to extend it to communities out of Georgetown, particularly remote and hinterland locations.“We chose this age group because typically in First to Third Form they do not get to do Information Technology and by the time they get to Fourth Form they move on to CXC and it is already late. This programme in the pilot stage is really proving that yes they can learn it at an early stage and yes we hope that at some point that would change the way Information Technology, coding, and programming is taught in our schools and we are hoping that we can extend it as much as possible,” Collison said.Meanwhile, Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes said the number of girls who registered to be a part of the programme overwhelms her. She added that internationally women and girls are leading corporations and hold high positions in the ICT sector but noted that Guyana and the Caribbean is lagging behind.“You are the chosen generation. You guys are going to transform Guyana with how you use and promote ICT. I am excited that finally we can give opportunity to girls to make sure that they can be a part of this important game. Today is a new start to a whole new journey that you girls will undertake,” Hughes said.She urged the girls to ensure they take full advantage of the opportunity and complete the 12-week course.Minister Hughes said the more women and girls in the tech industry will ultimately result in having more talented and innovative youths to change the demographic and lead Guyana into the digital revolution. “We at the Ministry of Public Telecommunications always knew that we have to make a change. We have to train more of our Guyanese women to get into Information Technology, so we came up with a plan to demonstrate to our female population from as young as you are that ICT is not only meant for boys and not girls, women are exceeding, excelling and they are leading in many ways,” Hughes said.“We recognise that just to create the apps, to do all of these wonderful things there are some fundamental training that is required and that is in the area of coding and the beautiful thing that we don’t have to worry about is that it is all interactive, it is practical, it is exciting,” she added.The curriculum is expected to cover both theory and practical aspects. The theory is to cover about 40 per cent and the topics, includes the pioneers of computer science while the practical aspects will focus of looking at applications, software and hardware.