SEATTLE — Marieme Jamme, a technology entrepreneur, is one of the 16 World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders with a mission to help and encourage refugees and young girls learn how to code or, at the very least, prioritize education for themselves. As someone who only learned to read and write at the late age of 16, Jamme is an inspiration to the people she reaches out to. She was able to influence a population of nearly 250,000 people on a visit to Kakuma and the Kalobeyei settlement in northwestern Kenya as part of the education team. This visit is part of her initiative, iamtheCODE, a project to train one million women and girls to code by 2030.
From Orphan to Tech Entrepreneur
Born in Senegal, Jamme has faced barrier after barrier in pursuing an education. Abandoned by her mother, she grew up in an orphanage before being trafficked to France. She lived in a subway station in Paris for three years before being rescued by the police and connected with a network of refugees. A Moroccan woman reached out to her as a mentor and encouraged her to apply for a migration program to the U.K.
Jamme told UNHCR, “I read every material that came my way. I have now registered to sit GCSE and A-level exams next year,” referencing her daily library trips starting at age 16, as she never had a formal education.
Last year, she received awards from several significant and powerful organizations, such as UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for her contributions towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She also made the 2017 Powerlist of Britain’s 100 most influential people of African and African-Caribbean heritage.
IamtheCODE Focuses on Women and Girls’ Education
IamtheCODE is the first African-led global movement to mobilize government, private sector groups and investors to develop STEAMED (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship and Design) education. It is focused on furthering the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals by running “digital clubs, hackathons and mentorship programmes around the world, with the aim of using creativity, technology and coding in different subject areas to promote learning in an engaging and interactive way,” as iamtheCODE describes on its website.
It is also the first organization to be recognized by the World Economic Forum, UBS, Microsoft, the U.N. High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment and U.N. Women for its strategy in linking the SDGs and STEM education.
Jamme’s most important initiative in this enterprise is to inspire girls to learn to code. The program targets marginalized communities and provides them with safe educational spaces and assistance in the job search. Hoping to train one million female coders by 2030, Jamme has partnered with different networks and programs to reach this goal.
Most recently, after her visit to northwestern Kenya, she and other Young Global Leaders proposed the establishment of a site that would connect refugees and host communities to public and private partnerships with a network promoted by Young Global Leaders.
IamCODE has also recently partnered with the Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award to offer awards to participants for different achievements, both online and in real-time. Being accessible online, the program is free and can be used on any device with a browser.
This initiative has reached 58 countries so far. Jamme’s ambition is to empower marginalized individuals to write their own code and become a confident part of the growing digital world.
In encouraging technological literacy, iamtheCODE is aware of how uncommon STEM skills are in marginalized communities. Engaging women and girls specifically is an important part of the United Nations 2030 agenda, as the gender gap in education and the labor market is substantially detrimental to achieving progress in reducing global poverty. By encouraging women and girls to learn to code, the program increases economic inclusion and thereby advances poverty reduction efforts.
– Alice Lieu