It was the first time that Srey Pich had a chance to use a computer. She was in the sixth grade when a community center in her village installed some donated computers. She still remembers that moment well: how nervous and excited she felt in front of a computer, and how she learned to type, use Microsoft Word, and explore the Internet for the first time.
Now, at 18 years old, and passionate about coding, she is joining Sisters of Code. Since computer science is not introduced in most schools in Cambodia—and only a few public schools have computer labs—joining the Sisters of Code after school club is her only chance to learn how to code.
The field of technology in Cambodia is male-dominated, and as a result, female students feel unwelcome. Only 7 percent of female students in Cambodia choose to study technology related subjects, and only 30 percent of those who graduate end up with jobs in the field of IT. Lack of role models, lack of confidence, and lack of opportunities, along with pressure from society to disengage from tech, all hold back female students from learning important digital skills and getting actively involved in the digital economy.
That is why Sisters of Code, the first female coding club in Cambodia, was created in 2019. It aims to help girls grow confidence—and challenges long-held gender stereotypes. By offering this free educational program, Sisters of Code brings real solutions to the identified challenges their students face: 46 percent of girls are told that they should not (or would not be allowed to) study technology. Twenty-seven percent mentioned that there are no other places in Cambodia for girls to study digital skills.
Soksoraksa, who is 19 years old and enrolled in a Computer Science undergraduate program at a public university, shared: “In my class, there are only five female students, and the other 35 students are male and often I am afraid to ask questions, as I know boys will judge me. So I want to be the most outstanding student to show the world that female students are also good at coding and technology. I hope Sisters of Code can help me to reach my dream to become an outstanding coder and create solutions that are useful for society.”
In 2020, Sisters of Code became a Solver with MIT Solve in the Learning for Women & Girls Challenge. This international recognition motivated the team to scale the program with more clubs and a new Sisters of Code Ambassadors program.
Ninety-six percent of Sisters of Code graduates admitted that studying coding was a useful or a very useful experience for them. The program is supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia, which helped to launch Sisters of Code clubs in two public schools. This partnership also helped engage ICT teachers into innovative training programs on creative coding principles. To date, Sisters of Code has been joined by around 200 female students. Due to the limited funds of the organization, only one out of five applicants can be offered to join lessons. Sisters of Code needs greater support to continue delivering free training courses, expand their program, and supply laptops for students to learn remotely. Donating even $100 can give one girl the opportunity to attend an 18-week-long program. Click here to donate now.
Natalja Rodionova, founder of Sisters of Code, who moved to Cambodia in 2015 from Europe to work in the field of IT education commented: “Sisters of Code is the first and the only coding club for Cambodian girls. Our vision is to empower and support female students through education and the resulting confidence to discover their full potential and grow a new generation of digital creators in Cambodia. As a mother, I know how important it is to create a supportive atmosphere for teenage girls. Coding is a new challenge for many of them.”
The Sisters of Code curriculum is focused on beginner's level coding and introduces students to the principles of visual coding, algorithms, and creative coding. By employing innovative, skills-focused, and inclusive educational programs, Sisters of Code helps female students learn more about tech and encourages them to work on projects they feel excited about. This freedom of choice in a fun and supportive atmosphere is what makes a difference in learning programming concepts, even those that felt complicated at first.
19-year-old Pouy Kim, who recently joined Sisters of Code, remarked: “I want to participate in Sisters of Code so I can explore the computer world. It would be challenging and would also give me a chance to get out of my comfort zone and try out something I've never done before. I believe that in this technology era, learning how to code is something that is really useful. This program is really inspiring and empowers young women to make their way into technology—I want to be one of them.”
Sisters of Code is a nonprofit program that provides training for students free of charge. The organization relies on grants and donors—as well as laptops and internet access to ensure students are connected—to support its activities. Sisters of Code believes that providing access to education for girls is not a charity, but a smart investment that will bring long-term benefits.