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Cracking the code for girls in science

(11 February 2020)

Today (Tuesday 11 February) is the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Three years ago, Mahek Vara, a second year Computer Science student, founded Code Camp, to equip children in her home nation of India with digital skills. Since then the charity has helped nearly 80,000 students in 2,000 schools. We caught up with Mahek to find out more. 

Q: Tell us about Code Camp

Mahek: I set up Code Camp primarily as a teaching programme for government schools in India. Young people in these schools didn’t have the opportunity to learn computing, and I believe that having good digital skills is becoming as important as learning how to read or to do mathematics in our ever-changing world. 

We have produced a clearly written scheme of work for schools and trained teachers working in the schools to deliver the coding programme. There has been a real hunger for the technological skills from the students, meaning that those that had mastered skills were then sharing them with the other students, which was lovely to see.

Q: What would you like to do next?

Mahek: I’m currently developing a more advanced programme for students, and I would like to reach out to more children in other developing countries. I am particularly passionate about bringing STEM education to girls across the world, ensuring they have the skills to confidently build bright and successful futures.

Q: What barriers do you think women and girls can face in accessing careers in science?

Mahek: I think there are a lot of stereotypes which effect both girls and boys across the world and stop them taking an interest in Computer Science. I think it’s important to challenge those stereotypes as anyone can study Computer Science and have a lot of fun doing so! 

Q: How do you balance your University commitments with running a charity?

Mahek: It can be quite challenging, but I am passionate about making a real difference and that keeps me going. I know that having a good degree will really help me in the future so I have to make time for my studies also. The Computer Science Department has been really supportive of my charity work and that has really helped.

Q: What would be your advice for any aspiring female scientists?

Mahek: You’ll have so much fun, so just go for it!