In the beginning of #techwomen19 as Emerging Leaders gathered for the first action plan meeting, country teams were asked a question: If you could solve any challenge in your country, what would it be?
The action planning process – beginning with brainstorming, moving through iteration and strategy and concluding in the creation of high-impact plans – culminated at this year’s Pitch Day hosted at Netflix, who provided an incredible stage for ELs to present their initiatives. There, Emerging Leaders showcased the action plan projects that they, alongside their Impact Coaches, had developed over the last four weeks. In front of a panel of distinguished women judges and the TechWomen community, country teams took to the stage, showcasing their social impact projects and contending for a seed grant that would support them in implementing their projects at home. The judges — Ulili Onovakpuri of Kapor Capital, Lisa Jones of Silicon Valley Venture Fund and Meriem Bekka of VMware — were each women leaders who work to invest in and uplift diverse populations in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
Senior data analyst at Netflix Katya Simpson opened the evening with a warm welcome to Emerging Leaders, setting the stage for an exciting evening of impact. Ann Aaron, Netflix’s director of coding technologies, delivered an inspiring speech, sharing her journey in tech and emphasizing the importance of celebrating diversity. “Thank you for your courage, your passion and your perseverance,” she said.
After, each team presented their initiative, answering the very question they were asked four weeks prior: Team Kazakhstan hoped to innovate by opening their country’s first-ever interactive science exhibition for kids;Team South Africa provided a response to critical issues of gender violence, looking to use storytelling to educate young men and shift cultural attitudes; Team Lebanon sought to address their country’s water crisis through developing science-based groundwater quality management policy and guidelines. Below is the TechWomen Pitch Day recap, featuring each country team’s pitch on stage at Netflix:
And the seed grant winners are…
On Monday evening, the TechWomen community came together to toast four weeks of learning, exchange and connection. Hosted at Twitter, the Community Celebration was a chance for ELs to reflect on the month’s activities, celebrate alongside their mentors and of course find out about the 2019 seed grant-winning teams. VP of People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Twitter Dalana Brand opened the evening, delivering a powerful opening speech. She urged ELs to see change — and create a sea change — wherever they go. “Don’t see a problem and walk away,” she said. “See a problem and become a part of the solution.” After, ELs came to the stage with their mentors to reflect on professional mentorship, cultural mentorship and action planning. With her Twitter mentor Diana Macias by her side, Aigerim, an EL from Kazakhstan said, “In just a few weeks, I’ve become a different person. Mentor Vinu Charanya followed, saying “This isn’t just a mentorship program. It’s a peer-to-peer global learning program.”
Next, it was time for the big reveal: TechWomen Director Katie Zee announced this year’s five seed-grant winning teams: Team Jordan, Team Libya, Team Nigeria, Team Pakistan and Team Zimbabwe! Below are their action plan projects, in their own words:
In 2018, the death by suicide rate in Jordan increased by approximately 10%; Jordan has been identified as a country of massive need for strengthening the mental health system. The central aim of the Sanad project is to develop a mobile application accompanied with launching an outreach program to raise awareness and provide evidence-based knowledge and support to youth who suffer from mental health issues in Jordan. The Sanad mobile application will focus on four main pillars: educate, support, escalate and interact and therefore will have multiple features including providing educational videos, interactive learning games, articles from influencers and success stories and testimonials of previous patients, as well as audio-video conferencing features to facilitate chatting with professional counselors and sending push notifications for tips and advice. Our ultimate goal is to improve mental health literacy in the Jordanian community and decrease its associated social stigma.
Libya: Light Up Libya
For many years Libya has been suffering daily from long power cuts and blackouts. Students have even reached the stage of using street lights or mobile phones to review, work and study for their exams. Our mission is to enable future generations to have the power to continue their education effectively without interruption or limitations.Our action plan will focus on teaching younger generations and enlightening them about sustainable power. Solar is a promising alternative energy source given that Libya is a very sunny flat country. We will provide students with solar power light kits to meet their basic needs to succeed in their education, independent from conventional electricity. Over the long-term, we will empower students to use this kit, along with workshops and field trips, to expose others to solar power and raise awareness so they can be the future drivers of renewable energy.
Nigeria: Green Kitchen
Cooking should be harmless, but in Nigeria it’s a hazard for women and children.This is due to exposure to solid fuel sources such as charcoal, firewood and kerosene which predisposes them to health risks as well as high death rates. It also impacts heavily on our local and global carbon footprint. Green Kitchen seeks to reduce the death rate, health and security risks of economically marginalized women in Nigeria’s most rural communities from sourcing and using firewood to cook for their families. Green Kitchen will leverage partnerships with local manufacturers of clean cook-stoves and green-friendly fuel to empower women to become entrepreneurs and change agents. Through a co-op model, we will assign the women as distributors of clean stoves and teach them to make cooking fuel generated from agro-waste within their communities.
Our mission is to reduce child sexual abuse in Pakistan by raising awareness and providing child protection tools, using a new digital platform called Bacha-O. Our objective is to make every child safe by activating the community and engaging all the stakeholders to reduce the number of incidents. A recent report by the Pakistani government depicts an alarming rise in the number of cases of child abuse. Children need a safe environment for societal growth. Our plan is to create a portal, Bacha-O.org, to promote awareness of the issue and of Mera Bacha, an exisiting government portal for reporting child sexual abuse cases. As awareness increases, we will manufacture wristbands for child protection, create community hubs and an AI chatbot for children, and deliver training for parents and teachers on recognizing and reporting child abuse.
Called2STEM seeks to provoke, inspire, advocate and champion the participation of girls with disabilities in STEM. In Zimbabwe, girls with disabilities are marginalized in the learning and exploration of STEM related fields. This is due to the stigma associated with disability, a patriarchal society that looks down upon a girl child and an education system that is ill-equipped to accommodate them. Our program will provide a platform for girls with disabilities to nurture scientific and technical mindsets and develop digital skills that will lead to their emancipation. We will run mobile pop up STEM centers in schools for the disabled, rehabilitation homes, public schools as well underserved rural communities. Disabled girls will get an opportunity to learn the use of various accessibility features on mobile devices, take part in scientific based interactive activities and use computer based learning technologies.
The action plan process, however, is about much more than seed grant awards: Emerging Leaders’ dedication, courage and ingenuity transcended competition, serving as a true celebration of women leaders and their commitment to change their communities.
So, cheers to the Bay Area portion of #techwomen19! We’re not ready to say goodbye just yet, however. We are already in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., for the concluding portion of TechWomen. Here, Emerging Leaders will get a chance to visit the U.S. Department of State, engage with panels of empowering female leaders and explore the history and culture of a new city.