(Translation by Tom Leaman of the French version of this post)
Delphine and I had the chance to go in Tunisia for 3 days, in january. It was marvellous! We gave a talk about WoMoz… Here is my report which have been translated from French by Tom Leaman (thanks!).
This conference was, originally, the main reason for me being in Tunisia. I spent nearly 6 months exchanging e-mails with Melek Jebnoun and I discovered a fantastic girl who really loves WoMoz.
At Mozcamp Berlin, in November, Delphine and I met Sofien in the flesh which allowed us to arrange our place and the WoMoz conference. And here we are, this Friday the 20th of January 2012, Melek, Marwa, Sahar… and many other computer science students.
Before starting our presentation, we realised with Delphine that it was quite inapropriate for Tunisia. Indeed, part of our conference consists of pointing out the lack of women in computer science schools. But if this is true in France, it’s not the case in Tunisia: we had as many women in front of us as men… We therefore decided to only talk for 15 minutes and devote the rest of our time to discussion with the people there. To understand this difference and to see what WoMoz can give to others.
Despite this difference, the under-lying humour at the conference, the denounced stereotypes, have been apreciated. We felt that these stereotypes had no boundaries, even if they manifest themselves differently. In Tunisia, it’s clear that women are well accepted in computer education. And even beyond, since the students told us that once they have their diploma in their pockets, they will find the same kind of work as men, and with equal pay! Again, this is not the case in France…
BUT. Trolls also exist in Tunisia, and we were fortunate to have one. A brave boy spoke certain thoughts out loud where others might whisper. Speaking of differences between men and women, and questioning the necessity to make things happen.
Students in the room explained to us that the reason for their number was because the computer schools are seen as being reserved for the elite in Tunisia: if you are good in class, you go… Hence this male/female parity: all the good people in class go to study computer science, without distinction of sex. But what the Troll said was that he still found a difference: men are more passionate about free software than women. In schools, he said, there are more men who run Linux than women. The students agreed with this observation. However, they did not agree that it was simply because they were women, as this boy did.
The difference in passion wrt free software could come, after reflection, from unequal access to computers before girls get to computer schools. Maybe they are good in class, but not as familiar, like their brother for example, with using computers, development etc. And then there is social pressure: if women can integrate into computer schools, work… they are women who must also look after the house, take care of the children etc. Of course, the girls we met had character and, in this case, passionate about free software. But not all women have the courage to break the prejudices, or families (or boyfriend ;-)) that they support… And then computers will not be their way to earn a living.
What matters though, is exactly that passion shown by Malek, Sahar, Marwa and the others: because it is contagious! And it proves that it is not reserved for the men! Our new WoMoz members agreed that they would work on it: to transmit their love of free software to their friends, other students etc. Now, Delphine, myself and the other members of WoMoz will be there to support them!
I love you girls! You rock!
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