This was astounding. Walking into ThoughtWorks, Johannesburg and seeing coaches clean, mop, vacuum and organise desks for the first Rails Girls Johannesburg -was humbling and I was awestruck…

That is the spirit that set the tone for Rails Girls Johannesburg’s first presence in SA.   The organisers, coaches, ThoughtWorks personnel and volunteer Gary Segal including a 10 year old volunteer, Zaakirah Sader all pitched in to ensure that the Rails Girls got their first best Ruby on Rails coding experience.

The SWAG, a little red gift bag, with a Code of Conduct, a toolkit for online safety and a ThoughtWorks mug, were sleek and minimal and every Rails Girl got a T- Shirt – It was a proud moment. Then we improvised – Eskom’s epic load shedding tried to foil us – so we presented without slides on Day 1 to introduce our Rails Girls to the Rails Girls programme. Amidst identity game and descriptions of themselves they Rails Girls Johannesburg, found their coding spirt and each other. That in itself should have been enough. Then Orville Khangale stepped in and saved the day getting us connected with personal hotspots.

It was not – they were blown away by Vuyisile Sisulu’s wifi spoon presentation and showed us a few tricks. Then Ridhwana Khan took them through the Rails exercise like the pro – she is and they look to it with a lot of enthusiasm. Bentobox and theory and boxes and logic, style, design and infrastructure were demystified with Mariana Bravo – I loved that part and was delighted to act as scribe as these amazing young girls popped answers out with shocking clarity. I was blown away.

The sessions for coding were intense and labelling the girls into groups – ranging from Ruby Onxy, Crystal, Tanzanite, Platinum, Pearls, Jade, Emeralds, was a hit – these Rails Girls Johannesburg shone like jewels in their sessions. They worked hard, really hard for a long stretch of coding and came up with apps for books and fashion. Girls with brains and style is what I call them. The future coders glowed and regardless of their fatigue – after the marathon coding session. They were so well supported by these incredible coaches Liandra, Senovia, Faris, Bukiwe, Simba and Charles.   Ridhwana, Mariana and Vuyisile were there with them as they coded too! Big up to these incredible community spirited coaches.

We had some moments, too much Pizza, who thought we could ever have had too much pizza! Too little marshmallows – this I will remedy joyfully next time.

The Rails Girls were invited to come to ThoughtWorks by Brain Keke, Head of Technology for Pan Africa when he spent some time talking to them .. that was gracious and a real plug in opportunity for the Rails Girls. The highlight for the coders – their time, effort, and perseverance was honoured by the Deputy Minister of Education, Mr Enver Surty – who acknowledged the digital space for young women – and inspired them to embrace the digital world with full pride. This was indeed a coding moment for these first ever Rails Girls of Johannesburg and an emerging digital space for young women. They received their Certificates of Participation from the Deputy Minister of Basic Education and shone more brightly than the jewels they proved themselves to be. Theirs was a glow of pride, recognition and accomplishment. All sparks and curiosity.

Thank you, Rails Girls Johannesburg! Thank you all for the community. Thank you for the amazing sparks and curiosity.

Its success has ensured that the Finnish inspired community spirited Rails Girls movement is likely to roll out nationally in 2015 in the major cities of South Africa.