Today, International Women’s Day, is a day the world acknowledges the role women play in the society on a large scale. I get to spend the day with some youngins from different girls high schools in Kenya at the Microsoft Digigirlz event.
Today, we focus on the girl child who could be a toddler, a teenager, a college student, a working class lady, a mother, a grandmother – all collectively making up the women in the society.
Being in the IT industry, I choose to highlight and appreciate a few women who have fought through odds to be where they are. They are an inspiration, not only to their peers but to other young girls in primary and high school.
I have known Fridah Oyaro for the last two and a half years in her capacity as both my student and a consultant( yes you heard that right). This aggressive young lady showed lots of interest for the Akirachix training program back in 2011. Coming from a very humble background, so humble that I once dropped her home and I almost turned back with her to my house. Interestingly this never deterred her, it was actually a source of motivation, and this led to her being the best student Akirachix class of 2013. It did not end there, her attitude and openness has led to enormous growth, and she is now among the best designers sought at the iHub, currently consulting with her alma mater – Akirachix. She is our in-house designer and a role model to the current Akirachix class. To know more about her and her work visit her profile here
I love working with young ladies and Wangechi Mwangi caught my eye back in 2011 when she was in her last year at Precious Blood Riruta. She is not only smart, but she is also aggressive and highly opinionated, the kind that believes in herself and will not see a problem go without a solution. We managed to safely secure Wangechi to the IT industry – she had earlier been thinking of being an economist and her parents were also encouraging her to take up medicine. Her parents had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she was going to “waste” her A’s on another career besides medicine. Nonetheless, she fought and secured herself a full scholarship at Strathmore to study BBIT. This course is an interesting blend to her new found interest in technology and passion for economics.Currently in 2nd year, she is already providing a challenge to other university students. She has teamed up with two fourth year students to start a virtual stocks trading platform called Valuraha, read more here. I once jokingly said, she might be our next college dropout turned billionaire; she has what it takes to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.
“Never judge a book by it’s cover.”. Many a times, we meet people and make conclusions about them, which end up being wrong after interacting with the person. I met this young lady – Cynthia Abura back in 2012. From our visits to Precious blood for outreach, I had identified two girls who were really interested in technology and I knew the only way to keep this fire burning is mentoring them, keeping them engaged and showing them its possible to make it in the technology industry. Later in the year, I came across Google code-in competition for kids under the age of 17 through the Systers Network. I became curious and asked one of the two girls to give me a few of her classmates she thinks would be interested to participate. I got four and one of them was Cynthia. By the time she was coming out of high school she was a music student and her career path was in that direction. After signing them up for the competition, three of them would come to the iHub where we worked from, as the challenge was Internet based. Cynthia had to go to Uganda and see her parents and this meant she would miss out on mentorship – I was worried she would not continue with the competition but surprisingly among the four she was the best, even got a prize from Google. Read more about Google code-in 2012 here. Now this is ambition, passion and determination. Currently she is a first year student at University of Nairobi studying computer science and you will find her trying out other coding competitions and playing with new gadgets – she comes to play with my pair of Google glasses and is working on building an app for glass.
Today I celebrate these young women, they epitomise success in the society, inspire me and the rest of the AkiraChix team, and also give me hope that one day the ratio of men: women in technology will shift. It might take time, but we will get there, one Akirachic at a time.