KTH spreading its mission to girls worldwide

Cairo to host Tekla on International Women's Day

Sweden's Queen Silvia and the King were special guests at the recent Tekla event in India. (Photo: Anushree Tandale)
Published Mar 07, 2020

In the last 12 months, KTH and Robyn’s Tekla Festival has been presented for girls in multiple time zones – from the U.S. to Brazil and India. Yet being encouraged to get creative with technology proves equally powerful in cultures around the world.

Tekla Festival will be presented in Cairo, Egypt, on International Women’s Day, March 8, exactly one year after KTH and the Swedish Institute partnered up to take the event on an international tour.

Tekla and Robyn

Tekla ’s mission to inspire interest in technology among elementary and secondary school girls is one that Robyn and KTH have together worked with since Robyn first founded the event in 2015, as her answer to being awarded KTH’s Great Prize. Learn more.

While thousands of miles apart and culturally diverse, the 11- to 15-year-old girls – and their teachers – show a common excitement about the event, says Sanna Cedergen, the Tekla project manager for KTH.

“What ties the girls in these countries together is that there is so much enthusiasm,” she says. “It’s obvious a lot of these girls haven’t been given the opportunity to be creative in an environment like this; and we work with girls from challenging areas.

“Their confidence grows in a matter of minutes, even though they’ve never worked with technology in this way.”

Each Tekla event is structured similarly. Local girls are invited to attend a half day-long Tekla workshop with hands-on tech projects and inspirational speakers, followed by a Tekla Dialogue panel discussion for local officials, educators, and a variety of influential figures from the public and private sectors.

Connecting technology to wider interests

In Egypt this weekend, the girls will work with digital wearables, with material and technology provided by KTH startup imagiLabs. Last year in New York City, the girls worked with creating digital music, and in Brazil they built and coded basic robots.

“Tech is often seen as this narrow field, but in almost any area you can add a layer of tech – you can work with technology and music, technology and fashion, whatever the girls are interested in,” Cedergren.

Since its original launch in 2015 by recording artist Robyn, Tekla has been presented annually in the Stockholm region, and was later adopted by the Swedish Institute (SI), a public agency that works closely with the Swedish Foreign Ministry in promoting interest and trust in Sweden around the world. The events are arranged with the help of Sweden’s embassies in each country.

Girls at the Tekla in India get their hands on wearable electronics and create fashionable pieces for themselves. (Photo: Anushree Tandale)

The road ahead

Cedergren says that after the event in Egypt, a Tekla are planned for Indonesia and South Africa during 2020. Whether SI and KTH continue arranging the events next year has yet to be decided, she says.

“It’s a good example of two public entities combining our missions and creating opportunities for girls and women around the world,” she says. “It helps raise the structural questions that need to be answered for people in these countries to create more opportunities for girls in technology.

“The girls walk out of the festival a little taller, and with a little more confidence in what they can achieve.”

David Callahan

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Last changed: Mar 07, 2020