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This is the third in a series of interviews we will be publishing until the end of the year that highlight the journey, struggles and achievements of women doing work in community networks. We will document their experiences with the intention to inspire more women to get involved in this field. This month we are featuring Immaculate Laker.
Immaculate is a representative of BOSCO Uganda for the community networks learning grant initiative implemented through the "Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives" project.
Immaculate Laker is a young, down-to-earth professional information and communications technology (ICT) graduate from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. As a technical assistant with BOSCO Uganda for 18 months, Immaculate has developed skills in wireless network installation, configuration, maintenance and troubleshooting, as well as database creation and maintenance and installation of PV solar panels on rooftops and masts. Immaculate is also a community mobiliser and trainer in ICT using Web 2.0 computer applications. Immaculate envisions a world with equal practical opportunities for women in ICT, especially in rural communities of northern Uganda.
Here are her responses to the questions we are asking all these inspiring women who are bringing connectivity to underserved communities:
APCNews: What is the most interesting reaction you have received from a community when doing the work?
Immaculate Laker: The joy of being connected and exposed to the rest of the world that can be felt from the face of a woman in her home and market excitingly connected directly to buyers through ICT, leaving out middlemen who in the past cheated them. Also, women being inspired by my work and as a result taking leads in the ICT training of other community members and inspiring fellow women to take up ICT.
APCNews: Can you share a moment or experience where you overcame structural/cultural gender barriers while working on community networks?
IL: I remember when I was climbing one of the towers to replace an access point which had a problem, a certain man said, “Look at this disrespectful girl, who told you women are supposed to climb such things? If you were my child I would disown you.” At first I got so demoralised, but after meditation on his words for a while, I got much vigour and courage to do the work, just to show him that I and other women can do what men can do. When I finished and got down, the man said, "My daughter, you are brave, I cannot climb to that height you went."
APCNews: What is a gender stereotypical comment you received and what did you do about it?
IL: When I was joining the university, one of my uncles realised that I had an interest in pursuing ICT as a course, so he told me that I shouldn’t waste my time to pursue ICT because it is a course for men and, as a woman, I may not handle it. But I told him if the few ladies have handled it, why would I not handle it?
APCNews: What do you enjoy most about your work on community networks?
IL: It is very interesting to me when I see the girls and women that I have trained in computer literacy skills also training and mentoring other girls in the community and being advocates for female involvement in ICT. I also enjoy seeing the lives of the women in the rural communities change after being connected to the internet.
APCNews: Thank you, Immaculate!