By Amy Juelsgaard, Program Associate
On October 7, the Emerging Leaders pitched their action plans to address a socioeconomic challenge in their community to a panel of judges at Oracle. Over the last four weeks, the women brainstormed ideas, developed blueprints and practiced their pitches within their country cohorts and with the support of Impact Advisors. On Friday afternoon, 19 teams representing each of TechWomen’s program countries shed light on their community issues and presented innovative solutions based on their collective knowledge, skills and newfound resources.
Many of the pitches centered on women’s empowerment in the workforce and children’s education, demonstrating the universal nature of these problems. Team South Africa addressed the issue of illiteracy in their country, where 60% of children cannot read beyond the basic level by the end of fourth grade. They plan to develop a mobile application, Books4Mzansi, to connect schools and the community centers in townships and rural areas with donors and sponsors who can provide them with teaching and learning materials.
“Coming from townships and rural schools, we know what it feels like to attend class with insufficient or no learning materials nor appropriate teaching resources. For one, I had to depend on the power of imagination to learn about microorganisms without using microscopes; I learned chemistry without all required chemical reagents and science labs. However, against all odds, I obtained a PhD. On my team, we have three PhD graduates, one PhD candidate and a rocket scientist who also comes from Soweto,” Tiisetso Lephoto of Team South Africa said, during her pitch to provide access to education.
The Emerging Leaders from Tajikistan described the situation wherein many men migrate out of the country to find work in Russia, leaving 300,000 women who are in need of learning basic skills to earn an income. Team Tajikistan proposed a plan to support these women and provide a platform for existing small businesses to hire more women.
In Algeria, qualified and educated individuals are not able to find work given the lack of diversity within the country’s economy. “In the past 30 years, half a million people have left the country due to lack of opportunities, causing brain drain. This has resulted in a $105-billion loss. Our solution, HereToStay, a non-profit organization, provides a six-month professional mentorship for graduates with high-profile companies and research centers. This will create an ecosystem encouraging Algerians to stay in country,” Safia Bouacha of Team Algeria said.
The panel of judges included Win Chang, Cloud Accelerator Director at Oracle; Amanda Galton, Partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP; Monica Kumar, Vice President of Cloud Product Marketing at Oracle; Toro Orero, Managing Partner at DraperDarkFlow; Eli Potter, Senior Director of Enterprise Applications and Platform Engineering at Autodesk; and Emmalyn Shaw, Investment Partner at Omidyar Network. The judges had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of each pitch. In their response to several of the pitches, the judges spoke to the fact that the United States struggles with similar challenges, including the lack of equal representation in the workforce.
The judges rated each action plan based on potential for impact, sustainability and scalability. The top five teams will receive a seed grant, which will be announced at the Community Celebration on October 10 at Automattic, to help implement their project back home.