My name is Rebecca Ryakitimbo, many people find it difficult to pronounce and write my last name as it is a name in the original language of the Zanaki. I was born in the village of Nyamuswa in the Musoma region and then grew up in the city of Arusha in northern Tanzania. I enrolled in a university course in Eldoret City in Kenya to study for a degree in Communication Technology and Electronics Technology. While studying in Kenya I noticed that many women were not studying engineering and technology with the view that it was a job or a course that was more suitable for men. This posed a great challenge to me, especially when many were surprised to see a woman climbing the telephone towers and repairing electronic devices when they were damaged. So when I was in college I spent a lot of time with men as I was the only woman who was studying technology engineering.
This situation I found even when I graduated and joined a job, where my first job was in an internet service company, people would often be surprised to see a woman climbing towers and repairing networks. That's when I decided that issues of technology and gender are important to me and as a woman in this industry I have to try to impress many and let them know that technology is genderless. In 2016 working with fellow women who were working in various fields of science and technology we formed the TechChix group. We spent a lot of time encouraging women and girls not to be afraid of the science and technology industry. Our work became known and this enabled us as a group to win the “Queen of Power” award in 2018.
In 2017 I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the participants in a conference on cyber governance in Geneva, Switzerland, where I learned about cyber governance and how women are still lagging behind in cyber policy issues. I took that challenge and decided to bring this opportunity to my fellow women in Tanzania and East Africa and thus became the co-founder of the Arusha Women's School of Internet Governance. It is now almost four years since the start of this school, and every year we reach out to other women, and I am thrilled to see women engaging in digital rights such as the protection and security of their information and sexual harassment on social networks.
Through ICANNWiki I learned about translating professional words from English to Kiswahili and so I had the opportunity to be selected as ICANNWiki ambassador in their project to create a week of internet administration in Kiswahili. This embassy rekindled my love for and in my first language Kiswahili, it reminded me of my childhood where Kiswahili was the language spoken at home and in the community around me as in school, church and even in the market as a national language. It reminded me of a friend of mine who studied in a government primary school in Kiswahili and was unlucky to continue his studies so the only language he knew was Kiswahili. I did a lot of research and found that web pages are full of concepts and content in foreign languages and not as native as Kiswahili. So my co-founder and I decided that each edition of this school would have the purpose of translating the teachings, telephone programs and so on into the Kiswahili language. So far we have been able to translate through this school and teach Tanzanian women the importance of having content or programs in indigenous languages like Kiswahili especially in technology. Last year we were able to translate the online security guidelines for women developed by Internews and then last year we translated Psiphon into a program that helped many to access the internet in 2020 where Tanzania shut down the internet during the government elections.
Right now through this Kiswahili project at Mozilla I get a chance to do two things I love. The first is to promote my Kiswahili language in technology and secondly to increase the participation of women and the opposite sex in the use of voice technology. I know that friends, relatives and the communities around me will not miss the opportunity to participate in the use of ICT and ancillary technologies such as voice technology as in the mother tongue of Kiswahili.
Read more about Swahili work here at Mozilla:
-- Introducing myself, Kathleen Siminyu