19-year-old Elizabeth Mwale from Nkhorongo in the outskirts of Mzuzu had never had access to a computer all her childhood rendering her disadvantaged to excel in education in the ever-changing digital world.
Luckily for Elizabeth, her life changed when she was invited to participate in an E-Sports program organized by a youth NGO, Extra Mile for Development Foundation (EMDEF) in partnership with Transformation of Youth and Women Empowerment (TYWE). Initially, she says she hesitated to attend, thinking that gaming was only for boys. However, after learning that the project was meant for girls like her, she decided to give it a try.
A few weeks down the line after she was introduced to various games specifically designed to teach digital literacy skills, she won a first-ever girls’ Esports tournament organized by EMDEF as part of the project.
“I am amazed by the fun and engaging games I have learned through this project and I am spending more time playing and learning now.” She says, “My digital literacy skills have improved significantly. I am proficient in using computers and the internet.”
She adds that video games have also helped her to improve her problem-solving skills, decision-making abilities, and good reasoning.
According to EMDEF Executive Director Towera Ngwira, Elizabeth’s story is just one of many examples of how E-sports can impact girls’ digital literacy in Malawi.
“Through gaming, girls are exposed to technology and allowed to learn new skills in a fun and engaging way. This can not only improve their digital literacy but also open up new opportunities for their future, including careers in STEM professions.
“About 80 girls were directly engaged through the e-sports and gaming sessions. Of which 30 girls were engaged through workshop sessions, 20 through community activities, and over 30 girls through awareness campaigns.” Says Ngwira on the impact of the project so far. “And over 200 girls were indirectly engaged through the multiplier effect. And most of them say they have benefited a lot from e-sports and video gaming.”
Ngwira also says she has seen firsthand how video games can enhance creativity.
“Multiplayer games, for instance, allow players to connect with others and work collaboratively towards common goals. This can help to develop teamwork and communication skills, additionally, playing video games can be a form of stress relief and relaxation. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment and achievement as players progress through the game and overcome challenges,” she adds.
According to the United Nations, fewer women have access to the internet than men, and women are largely underrepresented in STEM careers.
The EMDEF project which is being implemented in partnership Transformation of Youth and Women Empowerment (TYWE) is supported with financial and technical support from Women Win under Onside Gaming Fund by enabling girls to exercise their right to play and is currently benefiting girls in Zolozolo Nkhorongo, Chibavi, and Hilltop areas of Mzuzu City. It has also seen establishment of outreach groups to girls at Mzuzu University, Mzuzu Technical College and Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences.
So far over 200 girls have directly and indirectly benefitted from the project.