Sisters of Code
One-line solution summary:
Sisters of Code, the first female coding club, that offers free coding trainings to encourage female students to study technology.
Pitch your solution.
Female students traditionally are not considering STEM education as a priority. Many female students are held back by the stereotypes in the society, as well as low awareness about job possibilities and industry requirements. Women make up 73 percent of the Cambodian workforce, but only 7 percent of women participate in tech-specific programs at universities.
Free coding club only for female students, where girls feel encouraged and supported, where they learn basics of coding, meet female trainers who are professional coders, and learn the importance of digital skills, as well as variety of different applications. Sisters of Code is more than a training program, it is a community building approach.
With more female students learning digital skills and being fully included into digital economy development, we can not only support equality and economic growth globally, but also build a more resilient and compassionate world.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
According to Cambodia’s future jobs: linking to the economy of tomorrow. World Bank Group Technical Report 2019: Cambodian Labor force does not have the skills to attract higher-value FDI, nor they have the means to acquire those skills. 94% of jobs are in low-skilled occupations, with managers and professionals accounting for less than 5% of all jobs. At the same time female workers make 75% of the labour force in Cambodia mostly working at low-skilled occupations. The advent of new technologies means that workers will require a more complex set of skills than in the past. According to the World Bank, increasing Cambodia’s productivity will be a major driver for the country to achieve its ambitious goal of graduating from a lower middle-income economy to an upper-middle income economy by 2030.
Similar situation is in other developing countries. With women making around 50% of population, we see a dramatic lack of women being represented in the jobs relevant for the digital economies. Such situation should be changed and be addressed early - giving a chance to experience, learn basic skills, grow confidence and be able to make own decisions.
What is your solution?
Sisters of Code is the first and only female coding club in Cambodia. It is innovative as provides a real solution for female students to try learning coding skills. Since we are dealing with cultural stereotypes in the society, as well as limited opportunities in the regular schools, Sisters of Code brings a unique chance to join a supportive group, lead by real role models - female professionals working in IT, and learn skills through project based activities. Sisters of Code is a unique program with proven success and possibility to create a real impact both for the girls, and the industry. It is not just an educational program, but an empowerment instrument focused on developing a growth mindset, reaching beyond just its participants.
Sisters of Code lessons take place weekly, as an extra curriculum activity, for 2.5 hours.
Sisters of Code trainers are female programmers, that are coached and provided with all the teaching materials.
Program consists of 18 meetings and covers 3 modules. In the end of each module students present projects, thus developing also project management and presentation skills.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Sisters of Code is a unique program to introduce female students age from 10 to 20 y.o. to programming and develop strong basic coding skills, as well as grow their confidence in an encouraging environment, thus opening new opportunities for future career path in ICT.
Sisters of Code accepts for free coding training program any girl interested in learning coding and being able to attend lessons for 18 weeks. Sisters of Code was first launched in 2019 and we have paid a strong attention to being relevant and identify learners needs and barriers. For that reason we have conducted several surveys before each learning group starts and after the training completed. This approach helps us to track changes in the learners' attitude and identify possible ways for improvements and program development.
So far we have 150 students in Cambodia who have took a part in the Sisters of Code educational program in 2019 and we have collected data from 8 groups that were studying with Sisters of Code.
Thanks to the research we have learned that students are appreciating a possibility to study for free, so they parents are not hold back by financial constraints.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Increase the number of girls and young women participating in formal and informal learning and training
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
The Challenge we are addressing with Sisters of Code is to increase the number of girls and young women participating in formal and informal learning and training.
Sisters of Code is a unique educational program in Cambodia with no other alternatives for the female students in Cambodia. We offer free lessons thus giving an opportunity for girls from low income families to join the trainings, as we provide computers and ensure internet connection.
We also bring an opportunity to study on a weekend, as well as create a supportive and innovative learning experience for the students.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Phnom Penh, Cambodia
What is your solution’s stage of development?
Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Sisters of Code is a unique educational program for Cambodia. It is the first and the only coding club for female students, that not only provides training in coding skills, but builds confidence and changes dominating perception that boys are naturally better at studying technology.
Right now ICT education is available for students in Cambodia in most of international private schools, or through self-learning. Traditionally, female students are not being encouraged to study technology. By creating a girls-only training program, that is following project-based learning principles, as well as creating supportive environment and lead by female trainers, who serve as role models, is a life changing experience for most of our students.
Sisters of Code is a non-profit educational program and offers students fully funded experience. This gives opportunity for girls from low income families to join the program and eliminates a financial barrier for the parents, who often do not consider investing in their daughters' education a priority for the family budget.
Sisters of Code educational program is 18 weeks long and covers 3 major modules, taking students into coding step by step. We start with visual coding, as well as principles of internet security, then students create own computer games with Scratch and finally they develop websites with HTML and CSS programming. During the program students develop their project management skills, creative thinking and problem solving.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
We use online educational platforms to deliver the trainings
1. Teachers have access to an education management tool that allows to track students attendance, share materials online and support students studies.
2. Students are using online learning platform to access study materials. We also use Code.org and Scratch platforms for teaching students basics of coding.
Sisters of Code is using ed-tech solutions to improve the learning process, ensure efficiency of teaching and learning, as well as open new opportunities for students. Understanding that technology is an important tool for being more creative, more efficient and better connected is an important component of the learning process.
We also have been more actively using e-learning solutions since COVID-19 pandemic requires us to explore digital tools for education to ensure health and safety for the students and teachers.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
We are using these platforms for teaching:
Platform for teachers management, an ed-tech solution developed by IT Academy STEP
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
Sisters of Code builds a community of the future female leaders of the digital economy. Thanks to being able to attend free coding trainings at an early stage, students grow confidence, create a supportive network and develop resilience and digital skills. Sisters of Code activities improve chances for better employment for the students, as well as challenges traditional attitude in the society that IT is an industry which is best suited for boys. Sisters of Code proves by action that female students are capable and valuable members of the digital society, who can contribute to the economic development of their countries.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Since the establishment we have provided trainings to 150 female students in Cambodia and have more than 4000 followers for our Facebook page.
100% of our students would recommend Sisters of Code program for other female students.
In 2020 we have been forced to slow down our educational program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we target low-income students, not all of them have laptops and internet access at home. However, we are working now on -re-launching activities and we target to provide this training program to at least 100 more students in 2020.
In 5 years time we plan to have Sisters of Code running not only in Cambodia. Right now we are working on establishing Sisters of Code club in Vietnam.
We want to reach at least 1 000 female students over 5 years time.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Within next year we want to provide education to at least 100 students in Cambodia and launch a new program in Vietnam and provide coding lessons, as well as build a female community there.
In 5 years we want to expand to more ASEAN countries and reach even more female students. To ensure larger impact we will apply online learning tools and give possibilities to students to connect online and learn online.
We also are happy to share our educational approach to inspire more people to start such coding clubs and give to more students a possibility to learn. This will ensure replication and wider reach.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
We see several barriers:
1. COVID 19 impact. Since all the educational institutions are closed and we have to deliver lessons online, we see a growing gap in accessing quality education by low-income students, who would not have computers and internet connection at home. In Cambodia children in poor families would be taken to work early to support their families due to the economical crisis, which is evolving due to pandemic.
2. Many families in Asian countries do not consider it is worth investing and supporting girls in learning. According to the statistics 30% of female students in Cambodia are illiterate, twice more than boys - 15%. Girls are also dropping off from schools more often then boys.
3. Only 7% of female students in Cambodia choose to study technology related subjects. Many of those make such decision because of scholarship possibilities or by an accident, since Information Technology in Khmer language is often mistakenly understood as Communication with Technology, and many girls choose to study this major, assuming they will work on Television.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
1. We need to introduce a blended model: online learning and in-class activities, but strictly follow health and safety requirements. We believe that due the COVID 19, importance of digital skills have significantly grown in any profession.
2. We have to change inequality in access to education and help to understand that for a successful economic development, resilience and general satisfaction, educated women are as much important as educated men. Sisters of Code is a real tool to make this change at a grass-root level, by creating a different patters of behaviour and clearly demonstrating the results.
3. Sisters of Code clearly explains what is information technology, shows what skills are required and what job opportunities are there. Students work on projects, become creators and not just users, they grow their understanding and confidence.
What type of organization is your solution team?
Not registered as any organization
If you selected Other, please explain here.
Sisters of Code was created in 2019 as a non-profit educational project by IT Academy STEP Cambodia.
IT Academy STEP Cambodia team supports this project by developing educational curriculum, providing facilities for the trainings, as well as ensuring equipment and connection to the internet.
The technological solution was developed by IT Academy STEP team and is available to the Sisters of Code participants.
How many people work on your solution team?
Full-Time: 2 people
- managing director
- project manager
Part-Time: 4 people
- 2 trainers
- 1 communication manager
- admission officer
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
IT Academy STEP was established first 1999 in Ukraine and has more than 20 years experience in education.
In 2015 we have opened a branch in Cambodia where we provide digital skills training for students in the variety of areas: software development, design, animation and others. We also have a junior computer academy for children from 8 to 15 y.o.
In 2019 we have established a non-profit educational program Sisters of Code and successfully trained 150 students, as well as received recognition and support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
Our team has strong background in education, especially in digital skills development.
The founder of Sisters of Code, Natalja Rodionova has also completed several courses to advance her education and learn innovative education methodologies, such as online course with HarvardX "Leaders of Learning" and an online course with Imperial College of London in "Coaching of learners"
All our trainers are qualified and experienced professionals, committed to help students to develop their skills.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
We have established partnership
1. Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia. The goal of this partnership is to bring Sisters of Code coding clubs to more public schools on Cambodia, as well as train teachers working in public schools on ICT subjects, as well as consult on ICT curriculum development.
2. IT Academy STEP that ensured curriculum development, access to online systems and relevance of the skills to the industry demands.
What is your business model?
Our value is coding skills for girls, that would enable them to feel more confident about studying technology in the future. We serve as the first step on the path of developing a successful career path in the Industry 4.0.
We provide free trainings for the students, thus enabling low-income students to join the training.
We believe that studying technology will provide better employment opportunities for the students in the future, as well as will help them to grow their confidence, acquire important problem solving and creative skills.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?
Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We are currently relying on donations and grants, as we want to keep this program free for the students.
We believe Sisters of Code could become a program to be supported by governments, as well as IT industry associations or larger NGOs interested to support women empowerment.
In the future, we might start developing a new revenue stream by cooperating with IT companies, who would be interested to support Sisters of Code in exchange to having access to hiring successful graduates.
If you have raised funds for your solution or are generating revenue, please provide details.
In 2019 we have raised
Partner: USAID / Development Innovations grant
- Duration of the project: 6 months
- Value of the contract: USD 45,298
Partner: British Embassy in Cambodia grant
- Duration of the project: 6 months
- Value of the contract: USD 25,440
If you seek to raise funds for your solution, please provide details.
Sisters of Code is searching for a grant in the amount of 50 000 USD
This grant would allow us to ensure coding trainings for at least 250 female students from low-income families in Cambodia.
This grant will be used to rent laptops, ensure stable internet connection, pay salaries to the teachers, pay electricity bills, cover administration and communication costs for the program, as well as translate study materials to Khmer to ensure teaching process is more efficient and inclusive.
What are your estimated expenses for 2020?
Estimated expenses in 2020 are 24 000 USD
- administration of the program
- communication and PR expenses
- training of trainers
- e-learning platform support
Since COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for educational institutions operations, we have moved to teaching online. Which has some limitations.
We hope to re-launch our regular program in November, as the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport is planning to re-open schools in November 2020.
Why are you applying to Solve?
We believe that if we would become a selected SOLVER we could clearly demonstrate that the problem we are trying to solve is a serious one and deserve attention.
We are sure we would get lots of exposure and raise awareness on the challenges and barriers, as well as why an educational program of Sisters of Code can be a real solution and how can bring a positive change.
We also believe that international recognition, especially from such a respected community as MIT can be a game changer both for us, and for our students - we could not dream about otherwise.
Becoming a recognised Solver would mean a lot to us and our students. We believe in the value to dream big. This is why we apply for Solve. We dream to bring opportunities to girls, who are dreamers.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
We want to grow Sisters of Code and reach more students by bringing a positive change to their lives,
We have tested this program in Cambodia and we see we can deliver a real value to the girls, we can help to improve their decision making, resilience and employment possibilities.
Digital Economy which is male dominated, where solutions are created by male developers can not be successful, as is excluding 50% of the population and is based on inequality principles.
Sisters of Code is changing this pattern. We grow new generation of female creators, who are confident, curious, strong and committed.
But we need financial support to grow our program and keep it free for the students and we need help to be heard - to raise awareness on what and why we are doing to inspire more girls to join us and more boys to change their attitude.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
We are not sure yet about any specific names.
We are open for partnership and cooperation.
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GM Prize on Learning for Girls and Women?
Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The GM Prize on Learning for Girls and Women to advance your solution?
If we would receive The GM Prize on Learning for Girls and Women Prize, we would invest into bringing Sisters of Code educational program to more students. We believe with the funding of 75 000 USD, we would be able to ensure fully funded training for at least 350 students from low income families in Cambodia.
This number of students would exceed number of female students choosing to study technology in the universities in Cambodia by at least 3 times, thus making a revolutionary break through in gender inclusion for STEM.
That would also mean that the number of students who would attend Sisters of Code program in just one year would exceed the total number of ICT students in a Cambodian university, which is male dominated.
We believe this funding can help us to double the number of female students who would pursue their education in Computer Science in Cambodia.
We would love to have an opportunity to meet GM engineers and make a connection to bring an international experience to the students of the program.
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Gulbenkian Award for Adult Literacy?
Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the Gulbenkian Award for Adult Literacy to advance your solution?
Sisters of Code program has reached successful results in promoting greater digital literacy among female students. With the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation assistance and partnership, we are sure Sisters of Code can be successfully implemented as a successful pilot in Portugal to support female students in learning coding skills following our curriculum and building on Sisters of Code values of encouragement and support. Since the Gulbenkian Foundation Award is focused on Adults, we would need to adjust our educational approach, but we believe it can be successfully implemented with the right partners.
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the AI for Humanity Prize?
- Natalija Rodionova Founder, Sisters of Code