Sulá Batsú Cooperativa recently won an EQUALS in Tech Award in the Leadership Category.
ITU News caught up with Ms Kemly Camacho, President of Sulá Batsú, a civil society organization in Costa Rica using art and culture to tell the stories of women in STEM. They encourage young women leaders not just to use technology, but involve them in the creative process through female hackathons and programming clubs.
She explains why women’s leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and information and communication technologies (ICTs) goes hand in hand. Read the interview below to learn more.
1. What gave you the idea to start Sulá Batsú Cooperativa?
The idea to create Sula Batsu came about 15 years ago for two main reasons. The first being that we were a group of professionals from different backgrounds with a common interest to use our knowledge for the service of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. We had the privilege to be educated but we wanted to develop our own initiative based on principles to support disadvantaged communities with our knowledge.
The second reason was because we wanted to demonstrate that it’s possible to do business with another focus, where the main objective is not for profit but for local development. We wanted to work on the issues we were passionate about and create social enterprises based on knowledge sharing.
2. What are some of the challenges you have been trying to address?
Our biggest challenge is local development in a globalization context. In Latin America, there are many cities that are growing, especially urban cities, but rural communities are being left behind. Technology has a crucial role to play.
What we want is to propose and create technology for local development in the communities and areas where globalization is affecting their development.
There, women have an important role to take technology in their hands and propose ideas and create for their communities.
3. How are you bringing innovative approaches to bridging the digital gender divide?
We are especially focused on rural communities, in places where globalization is not permitting development. Technology projects are not focused on the needs of local development and don’t take into account areas where technology is not so important or accessible. So we want to develop a local digital economy in these rural areas.
We work with young women from the beginning and teach them how to use the technology and are with them throughout the process. We want these young women in the rural areas developing new and innovative technologies for their needs in their own community. We don’t want them to move to the urban areas, we want them to stay with their family and community.
4. Can you explain why leadership for women in technology is important?
We don’t just want more women in technology, we want more women developing technology to raise issues, problems and needs that technology is not looking at.
For example, we have a project on harassment in rural areas where technology is being developed for women to contact each other when they suffer harassment. The technology is creating a space and community for women where they can share experiences, support each other and take action. They have presented proposals to the municipality who are now supporting them to continue to develop technology projects and reduce harassment.
And another example, since tourism is important in Costa Rica, there is also a technology market for local producers, known as “Little Amazon.” Using this market, hotels are now buying local supplies and products such as milk and cheese.
5. How does it feel to win an EQUALS in Tech Award for your work?
We are very honored. It is like a dream to have this prize because we know that there are wonderful projects around the world and we would like to congratulate them. It is a way to recognize our hard work for women as leaders in technology and so this award is for the girls.
The IT sector is still [male dominated] and for these women to be able to open this space is difficult because they have many problems and issues to confront. This prize is for them.