While beauty competitions in America still primarily have women prancing around in a bathing suits and showing off their, “talents” in exchange for scholarship money and a crown, a Rwandan based contest is focusing all of its attention on women’s brains.
The Ms. Geek Africa competition is centered on highlighting the talent young women have to offer to the tech world, instead of focusing on their looks, reports The Guardian.
Starting in 2014, the competition includes women between ages 13 to 25 who compete to win financial support to bring their technological ideas to fruition. They have to find creative ways to use problem solving skills and technology to advance their communities. The competition includes young women who represent a number of African nations.
Salissou Hassane Latifa, won this year’s Ms. Geek Africa by developing an app that facilitates communication between medical personnel and people at an accident scene, thus helping to directly offer first aid during an emergency.
“Ms. Geek has already changed the perception of what girls can do,” said Esther Kunda of the Next Einstein Forum, a founding member of the competition’s main organizer Girls in ICT Rwanda.
The African nation is focusing on the advancement of women and girls and the competition is a part of that initiative to turn Rwanda from a small agricultural economy into a hub of technological innovation.
“It’s a good place to be a woman in tech right now,” Kunda says of Rwanda.
The Rwandan government has set his sights on increasing gender equity and diversify in the technology field by 2020.
In a country left devastated after the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 in just three months, Rwanda is continuing to make strides. After the devastation, Rwanda’s surviving population was 60 to 70 percent female, according to United Nations reports.
Rosine Mwiseneza won the competition in 2016 for her design to help farmers with an automated irrigation system. Winning took on more meaning after her parents were killed in the genocide.
“It was very difficult to believe,” she tells The Guardian. “I started thinking of everything that had passed before that day and I began to cry.”
Mwiseneza wants more girls to study in the field of Information and Communications Technology because it’s just the beginning of turning the tide and advancing the nation for the better.
“In this country it is still not easy for a woman to stand on her own but the change exists,” she says. “The future is not for men only. It is also for women.”
Here’s a look at some of the other winners of the 2018 Ms. Geek Africa competition: