“Web Marathon” & visit of the Prime Minister at the #GOW2013 warm-up in Belgium

GOW13-Belgium_01HGOn International’s Women’s Day, March 8th, our Belgian partner Interface3 organized a Web Marathon as a warm-up event for the European Get Online Week campaign 2013. The event  receive wide national media attention due to the presence of the Belgian Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo, State Secretary for Social Integration, Maggie De Block and Emir Kir, Mayor of St Josse, the municipality in Brussels where Interface3 is located.

During the visit, meetings took place with the students from the “Helpdesk” and “Bilingual Office Executive courses, followed by a presentation of the 6 websites that were developed during the Web Marathon by the soon-to-be-webmasters students.

At the Helpdesk course


After a welcome speech of the Director of Interface3, Laure Lemaire, the prestigious guests were accompanied to one of the classrooms where the students of the “Helpdesk” programme were currently following the first “Guidance Module” part of the course.

First Laure Lemaire explained the mission and activities of Interface3 and invited the training coordinator of Interface3’s helpdesk programme, Doris Bitini, to explain the content and objectives of this “Guidance Module”. For the occasion, Interface3 had also invited Anne Bellemans, a former student who had followed the same helpdesk training 22 years ago, who testified about her experience:

“After several years dedicated to raise my 4 children, this training helped me to re-enter  the job market. At that time, the helpdesk function was at its beginning. I was hired by UCB to set up their service desk. Interface3 enabled me to start a very exciting new career in a brand new sector where I was able to valorise my competencies, my previous work experience and the skills acquired during the training. During the last 20 years, I have happily welcomed Interface3’s students myself, as I want to help them to grab the same second chance Interface3 has given to me!”.

Cléa Aertsens, one of the helpdesk students, explained the reasons that had underpinned her decision to follow the helpdesk guidance module – which should, if all goes well, lead her to a one year training course in ICT helpdesk: “First I worked as a hairdresser, then as a cashier and then… I just want to with the bad working conditions and find a rewarding, stable job.”

Sarah Mbonimpa, who just completed the helpdesk training explained that she now works at Canon where she was hired after her internship. She was back at Interface3 for 5 days to prepare herself to take the ITIL certification that Inteface3 is offering its students with the collaboration of Serco.

At the Bilingual Office Executive course


The visit continued at the classroom of the “Bilingual Office Executive” programme, where students were already in training since November 2012. As 60% of this programme’s courses are provided in Dutch, all the interventions were done in Dutch.

Anne Posma, head of the teachers at Interface3, presented the training and explained: “The uniqueness of this course lies in the choice to provide a majority of the courses in Dutch. Moreover, this training gathers 3 advantages: in-depth office computer skills and database management as well as solid language and administration skills.”

Marleen Saelen, head of Interface3’s language department explained the method called “Monkey” that is used to teach languages at Interface3: “As its name suggests, the method is based on what human beings share with all other species: our ability to imitate! That’s what we do when we learn our mother tongues – and there is no reason why this competency should not be stimulated again when it comes to learning, as adults, a foreign language”.

And finally… at the Web Marathon!


The last stop of the visit was the classroom of the soon-to-be-webmasters students. Here, the students were very busy and involved in their “Web Marathon”: 1 day to create 6 websites for the projects of 6 entrepreneurs women, who also attended the day and actively took part into the completion of their own websites. The initiative wants to promote 2 sectors where women are underrepresented: in ICT and in entrepreneurship.  What better occasion than the International Women’s Day to promote the activities of these sectors?

Laure Lemaire explained: “Our idea came out of the collaboration of Interface3 with Melody Imbach and Dilyana Boteva, 2 former students who have set up their own web development business called ‘Filament’. Because one of Interface3‘s strengths is that it can count with the spontaneous solidarity between former and current students: that’s how our virtual network of women who help each other in their search for a better professional future was born”.

“Moreover, the event is organized as a warm-up activity for the upcoming Get Online Week organized between 18-24 March by Telecentre-Europe,  a European network of “digital actors” of which Interface3 is a member. Two of the objectives of this European campaign, to which Melody and Dilyana already participated last year, are precisely to raise awareness of young people and women on the possibilities of a career in ICT and to encourage entrepreneurship through and with ICTs.”

GOW13-Belgium_08HGMelody Imbach further explained the background of the initiative and introduced the 3 students who would present the websites they had developed. Aline Bruier Desmeth presented the website of Isabelle De Mol who owns a pharmacy and explained: “It was important to keep sobriety considering the nature of the activity of my client”. Isabelle De Mol added: “I am very happy with the result. My objective is to make us known from the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and to invite them to visit us”.

Rosa Lerario presented the website developed for Rukiye Dogan who owns the hairdressing salon ‘Coiffure Royale’: “We went for a stylish sober design playing on black and white: our client is thrilled!”

GOW13-Belgium_07HGLast but not least, Tema Best and Khadija Belkaïd, therapist, presented their achievement as well as their collaboration with a pinch of humour. Tema explained: “At the beginning, it was not simple, as I am American and pragmatic, I tried to impose a rhythm to our collaboration without much success”. And Khadija added: “I was a bad student as it was difficult for me to gather all the necessary content for the site on time but in the end we understood each other and Tema helped me to structure the information that I wanted to present: I am so happy that this website was born”.

Sonia Blasquez, the coordinator of the webmaster training concluded explaining the technical difficulties underpinning the creation and development of websites: “It can appear simple at first to a neophyte, but a year training is short to learn the ropes of the job which becomes increasingly demanding. I am very proud of my students and their seriousness during this Web Marathon”.

GOW13-Belgium_04HGPrime Minister Elio Di Rupo ended the day declaring: “I thank you for this visit: in this difficult political and economic situation for our country, your enthusiasm, your desire to move on as well as the commitment of the staff here cheered me up!”.

GOW13-Belgium_06HGInterface3 insisted to offer flowers to Maggie de Block, who had just been elected “Woman of the Year” by the readers of La Libre Belgique. “You deserve these flowers as much as I do” she said to Laure Lemaire “for the everyday job you do allowing these women to have a second chance!”.

GOW13-Belgium_02HGBefore they went, the guests posed for a group photo at Interface3’s garden!

» view the photo album of the visit
» view the photo album of the Web Marathon

Article written by Elena Lanzoni & translated by Laurence Leseigneur with slight adaptations from Telecentre-Europe
SourceVisite de Elio Di Rupo et Maggie De Block chez Interface3
Pictures by Emmanuel Crooy