No communications tower is too high for these women

Women in tech keep humanitarians and communities connected in the Central African Republic

Part of WFP CAR’s ICT team, which spares no effort to provide connectivity to humanitarians. Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo

By Bruno Djoyo

For most people, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in the Central African Republic (CAR) conjures up images of a truck on its way to deliver food assistance to the country’s most vulnerable. Yet, the UN agency is also a leader in providing telecommunications during humanitarian emergencies.

In 2020, WFP personnel implemented an innovative project, which helped make Internet connectivity four times faster while improving cost-effectiveness for half of the UN agencies operating in CAR. There are several women — all experts in information and communications technology (ICT) behind this inter-agency initiative.

“I’m proud to have been able to work on this project — the results have exceeded our expectations. We were united in our work,” says Nadège Ndassimba, WFP ICT Administrator in CAR. “This solution will effectively solve internet access issues, especially in a context where COVID-19 is imposing social distancing and forcing many to work remotely,” she says.

Nadège Ndassimba believes that women can do ICT work. Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo

Nadège is one of half a dozen local women in WFP’s ICT team who implement vital technology solutions for the humanitarian community in the country, helping them save and change lives.

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated to the world how important communications technologies are. This is particularly true in contexts where a simple phone call can be lifesaving. Poor connectivity can have a devastating impact on humanitarian work.

“After a good day’s work, I feel this sense of personal satisfaction that boosts my energy to tackle other challenges,” says Nadège, who is also a mother of four. She feels strongly about the significance of being a woman in a profession dominated by men in CAR. “You have to prove your skills before gaining the trust of your colleagues. For many, there is a perception that women lack the capacity for certain jobs like mine.”

Ariane Ngha-ndi is not afraid to climb a radio tower. She’s always wanted to be an outstanding woman. Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo

As she expertly climbs a 30-meter-high communications tower, Ariane Ngha-ndi proves that women have everything it takes to work in the ICT sector.

“I’ve always wanted to be an outstanding woman who tackles challenges traditionally viewed as requiring male aptitudes. My father wanted me to become an accountant, but I opted for telecommunications. In the end, he supported my decision,” says Ariane, who is an IT assistant with WFP in CAR. “I’m not afraid to climb a tower. For me, it’s like climbing a mountain. You have to put one foot forward and keep moving.”

In addition to bolstering connectivity for UN agencies, WFP along with the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) set up a call centre for the local community to access information in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Implementing this call centre shows WFP’s engagement alongside the government in its fight against the pandemic in CAR,” says Racky Fall, Deputy Director for WFP CAR.

Racky Fall, Deputy Director for WFP CAR and Francis Koroma, ICT Team leader. Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo

This call centre is just one of the different measures taken by the government of CAR to provide affected populations with access to information and support better-informed decision-making related to the pandemic as well as future crises the country may face.

The call center provides affected communities with access to information related to the coronavirus in CAR. Photos: WFP/Bruno Djoyo

“When I look at everything that we have achieved recently, I feel like we are heroes as we’ve spared no effort to provide connectivity to our users,” explains Nadège, who is happy to be a part of a team that is having a positive impact on affected communities.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

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