Dube iConnect, helping young girls to “shine”

22 October 2019

Qhakaza (meaning “to shine”) is the strong intention behind the Qhakaza Girl initiative, aimed at inspiring and empowering young girls to excel within the global 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) environment, with a specific focus on the development of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) skills across KwaZulu-Natal.  The 2019 programme participants were recently hosted at Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone as part of the initiative’s signature ‘industry immersion’ programme.


Qhakaza Girl Founder, Amanda Onamandla Mathe, says: “This initiative aims to develop a pipeline of young women who have both the academic qualifications and the practical understanding of industry environments to ensure that they are fully aligned to meet industry needs. Focusing initially on STEM, our programme has evolved to include the Arts, responding to the global trend in 4IR skills development, which recognises the role of support disciplines such as creative design, marketing and sales in securing sustainable progress within STEM industries.”


“Innovation is seen as the cornerstone of 4IR across all industries, particularly so within STEM, and is, therefore, a critical component of the Qhakaza Girl initiative. Our programmes are future-focused and aim to prepare girls for a working environment and career opportunities at least 3–5 years into the future. Through this collaboration with Dube TradePort Corporation, we introduced the girls to the concept of a Special Economic Zone and highlighted the role of STEAM within this particular industry environment. The girls came away with a practical understanding of how their studies in disciplines such as ICT, Agricultural Science, Electrical Engineering and Marketing could directly translate into a meaningful contribution to the social and economic development of communities in KwaZulu-Natal,” Mathe added.


The Qhakaza Girl event at Dube TradePort Corporation, which coincided with the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, included a presentation of the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone and the Durban Aerotropolis, followed by an information tour via the Dube Cargo Terminal and a walk-through tour of one of the Dube iConnect data centres. The girls were also exposed to the operations of an active undercover cucumber farm located at Dube AgriZone.


Senior Manager of Dube iConnect at Dube TradePort Corporation, Brynn Gerson said: “I was first introduced to the Qhakaza Girl initiative at a recent “Women in ICT” event during which the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, highlighted the imbalance between women and men within the STEM sectors and outlined government’s commitment to bridging those gaps to promote gender-focused empowerment in these sectors. I reached out to Amanda and requested that Dube iConnect be included in the 2019 programme.”


Committed to achieving the highest standards of quality, performance, security and support, Dube iConnect is a world-class cloud hosting, telecommunications, voice and broadband provider which boasts two Tier-3 compliant Data Centres located within the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone precinct.


“As a woman who has also had to find my own way through the male-dominated world of ICT, I am thrilled that Dube iConnect could have played a small part in inspiring these young girls to fully embrace the possibilities that await them in industry. Witnessing their passion for their fields of study and knowing that they are gearing up to lead our country into the 4th Industrial Revolution, I am excited for the future that lies ahead”, Gerson added.


Since launching in 2017, an average of 20–30 girls per year,  including final year students, interns and graduates from eThekwini-based TVET Colleges, Universities of Technology and Academic Universities, have benefited from the 6-week long Qhakaza Girl ‘industry immersion’ programme.  The initiative has been instrumental in placing students into industry internships and supporting graduates in job placements. In its quest to increase the uptake of young women studying in the STEM sector, Qhakaza Girl also includes technology roadshows to high schools, and through a collaborative partnership with Innovate Durban the Moses Kotane Institute has reached hundreds of high school girls through roadshows to urban and peri-urban township schools within the eThekwini region.