Taking on Tech: How Women in El Salvador are Leading in ICT International #GirlsinICT Day
Yamileth Verillos, 27, recognizes that we live in a technological world that is constantly advancing. We rely on a plethora of apps, webpages, portable hardware, and basic infrastructure to perform many of our daily functions. This technology requires a diligent, skilled workforce to develop and maintain it. Traditionally, men have dominated the tech workforce. Still, due to USAID’s Scholarships for Educational Opportunities Project in El Salvador, women like Yamileth are empowered to lead the charge in technology and use their skills to improve the tech infrastructure of their communities.
The Scholarships for Educational Opportunities Project is a four-year, $20 million project that aims to provide over 6,450 education scholarships by 2025 for vulnerable youth and returned migrants. By partnering with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the project enlists strategic allies like the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Technology and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) under the Sembrando Oportunidades initiative; the Gradual Education Model for Technical and Technological Learning (MEGATEC); and local service providers to provide three types of scholarships. These include a two-year technical education in six MEGATEC centers, accelerated education for students to complete their upper secondary education, and six-month vocational courses to develop specific technical skills to find a job in the short term. All scholarships include tuition costs, laptops/tablets, transportation, and meal stipends for students.
Yamileth is among many Salvadorans who have sought to pursue education and employment in El Salvador. The economic and societal challenges in her country have led many to migrate to the United States and Mexico. Migrants are often deported back to El Salvador with few opportunities. To support returnees and encourage them to remain in the country, USAID, the government and its partners promote programs like the Scholarships for Educational Opportunities Project to foster a promising future for El Salvador.
Yamileth is enrolled in a two-year technical education program at MEGATEC to become a Software Development Technician. She will complete her studies at the end of this year and graduate in July 2024 to fulfill her career aspirations to to assist people, particularly children, in their pursuit of knowledge and to provide entrepreneurs with a platform to advance their goals. During her studies, she has learned how to build webpages and mobile apps from scratch, utilize advanced computers and cell phones, and fix complex electronic devices. Yamileth says, “All the knowledge and skills that I have obtained help me to be more independent and increase my probability of finding a job in this area.”
As a woman in tech, Yamileth is challenging the stereotype that only men can work in software development. She believes, and is actively demonstrating, that women are skilled programmers and designers. Women make up nearly 60 percent of Scholarships for Educational Opportunities Project participants. It is evident that many others are joining Yamileth in breaking down barriers that prevent women from working in the information technology field. Because of the project, women in her community have found stable, meaningful jobs. “Fight for your dreams,” says Yamlileth, “and if you discover what you like, all the effort you put into studying or working will not feel hard.”
USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 project in the Philippines collaborated with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to expand access to TESDA’s Online Program (TOP) for out-of-school youth, including Facebook Digital Tayo’s Digital Citizenship and Ethics course.
More than 6,000 young Salvadorans benefit from scholarships that support skills development, job training, and formal employment possibilities through the Educational Opportunity Scholarships project IOM, USAID to Provide 6,000 Scholarships for Young Salvadorans.