Impact Stories from Education Diplomacy/Mentoring Policy Area
Emerging Leader of South Africa kicks off guest post series
Fellow(s): Reneiloe Seodigeng
Country: South Africa
TechWomen 2020-2021 Emerging Leader Reneiloe Seodigeng shares her story of growing up as a black woman in South Africa and finding her confidence in the latest post on the TechWomen blog. Her piece is a part of Emerging Leader Voices, a yearly blog series that invites incoming Emerging Leaders to share their perspectives and experiences with the TechWomen community.
In her post, “Journey outside the comfort zone: my pathway to growth,” Reneiloe describes the challenges she faced enrolling in a predominately white school as a young girl. Without models or mentors, Reneiloe overcame barriers to find her voice, discover her talents and understand her worth: “I found that I began to gain the confidence that I was meant to be there; maybe not to see faces that looked like me, but to be one of the faces that every black child and every girl child needs to see to know that they also have a place there,” she writes. With a master’s degree in chemical engineering and a passion for designing sustainable technology solutions in waste and sanitation, Reneiloe is determined to serve as a model for young people. She co-founded Kitso Technology Excellence Academy (KTEC), a STEM education center that offers programming in coding, robotics, entrepreneurship and more to young students in South Africa. “I got here by getting a good education,” she writes, “and the only way we can ensure our young ones have the opportunity to solve the world’s challenges is to provide them with quality education and encourage them to do their best.”
Report Date...: 9/14/20
Fellows come together in online conference to inspire girls
Fellow(s): Gisele Beatrice Sonfack, Oluremi Hamid, Saida Yusupova, Lamia Fikrat
Country: Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, Uzbekistan
Cohort: 2016, 2019
2016 fellow of Cameroon Gisele Beatrice Sonfack recently gathered TechWomen fellows from Morocco, Nigeria and Uzbekistan to share their stories as women in engineering and speak about ways to inspire the next generation of girls. Gisele is the founder of Women in Engineering and Technology (WENTECH), an association that organizes workshops and conferences with a mission to inspire girls interested in STEM fields.
The online conference featured Gisele as well as 2016 fellow of Nigeria and CEO of Hydren Energy Oluremi Hamid, 2016 fellow of Uzbekistan and CEO of Green Business Innovation Saida Yusupova and 2019 fellow of Morocco Lamia Fikrat, a renewable energy and environment consultant. The audience, mostly comprised of young students and their parents, learned about the gender gap in STEM fields and why women have been historically underrepresented. Each fellow described their pathway to success, sharing how they remained motivated despite being outnumbered by men in their fields. They also answered questions from the students, encouraging them to pursue their interests and passions. Despite the cancelation of WENTECH’s scheduled in-person conferences, Gisele hopes to organize and record bi-monthly virtual conferences, making them available for a wider audience of girls.
Report Date...: 9/7/20
Fellow wins Volkswagen Lioness Den competition
Fellow(s): Bathabile Mpofu
Country: South Africa
This month, 2018 fellow Bathabile Mpofu was named the third prize winner of the Volkswagen Lioness Den competition, a pitch competition for women entrepreneurs leading innovative businesses on the African continent. The initiative is held in partnership with Lionesses of Africa, a social enterprise that supports and advances Africa’s women entrepreneurs.
Bathabile is the co-founder and managing director of Nkazimulo Applied Sciences, an initiative that encourages young children to discover a love of science through ChemStart, a series of portable, customizable science kits for various age groups. As third prize winner, Bathabile will use the funding to bring an educator onto her team who will record online science lessons. The lessons will be for sale on Nkazimulo’s website, but Bathabile plans to provide them to underserved schools free of charge.
Report Date...: 9/7/20
Mentor and fellows collaborate for Iraq’s first accelerator
Fellow(s): Eileen Brewer (mentor), Shahrazad Shehab, Shatha Jayyousi
Country: Jordan, Lebanon, United States
Cohort: 2013, 2019
Recently, longtime TechWomen mentor Eileen Brewer moved to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq to serve as the director of Takween Accelerator, Iraq’s first startup accelerator based at The American University of Iraq Sulaimani. This week, Takween selected 12 local startups for their first cohort as well as 18 mentors and experts to help train and develop the founders.
Of the 18 mentors selected are 2013 fellow of Jordan Shatha Jayyousi and 2019 fellow of Lebanon Shahrazad Shehab. Shatha is the digital factory manager at Orange Jordan as well as a co-founder of Code on the Road, a 2018 AEIF-winning project that empowers women, girls and vulnerable populations through ICT skills, business and entrepreneurship training. Shahrazad is the managing partner and digital strategist at Creative Consults as well as a digital marketing trainer. Over the next 18 months, Eileen, Shatha and Shahrazad will support the Iraqi entrepreneurs, training them on product and market development, creating sustainable business plans, pitching and more.
Report Date...: 9/7/20
Fellow launches agro-waste initiative to empower rural women
Fellow(s): Linah Anyango
In rural Kenya, women walk long distances to collect firewood for cooking in their homes. 2019 fellow Linah Anyango wanted to create a solution that would not only provide cleaner, cheaper and more renewable energy sources, but also bring income to the women and their communities. Her newly launched CBO, Kanyadhiang’ Briquettes Nyale – which translates to “Briquettes are our solution” – aims to use readily available agricultural waste to provide sustainable fuel for women in rural Kenya.
Inspiration for the project began with the Girls in STEM Club that Linah founded at her school. Together, Linah and her students create clean energy solutions from waste products, including using charcoal dust to make briquettes. “I extended this project to women in rural parts of Kenya, since women are the most affected when it comes to access to clean and renewable energy,” she says.
This month, Linah hosted a one-week training where she guided groups of women in making briquettes from agricultural waste. The training focused on making briquettes from water hyacinth, an invasive plant species that threatens water sources and creates health risks. Moving forward, Linah will use her network to help the women sell their briquettes. “Ensuring that women and girls have energy access is not just about women’s rights – it’s a fundamental human rights issue,” she says.
Report Date...: 8/31/20
Fellows collaborate for webinar on solar energy
Fellow(s): Aia Abul-Haj and Amaal Al-Khatabeh
2018 fellows Aia Abul-Haj and Amaal Al-Khatabeh were recently featured in a live webinar event, sharing their perspective on solar power and the future of energy. The webinar was hosted by Phi Science Institute, a Jordan-based non-profit that brings science education to youth in Jordan and the Arab world.
In “Outside the Barrel: Solar Energy, Opportunities and Challenges,” Aia, the co-founder of renewable energy company SOLVillion Co, and Amaal, a renewable energy engineer, discussed the latest solar technologies and entrepreneurship within the solar field. The attendees, comprised of new graduates and researchers, had the opportunity to ask Aia and Amaal about their career choices as well as solicit advice on breaking into the energy fields. The fellows also spoke about solar energy during the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing how Jordan and other parts of the world have responded to an increase in solar consumption.
Report Date...: 8/31/20
Fellow pilots STEM program for girls
Fellow(s): Gunesh Bakgalova
After TechWomen, 2019 fellow Gunesh Bakgalova returned to Turkmenistan determined to pay it forward to girls in her community. “I set a target for myself to help at least three girls to help them pursue some STEM career,” she says. After finding sponsorship through her own company as well as other local organizations, Gunesh created a pilot program for teenage girls who are motivated by STEM but lack the resources to pursue their educational interests.
Gunesh partnered with the director of a local education center that offers IT education, working together to find girls from marginalized communities who were interested in mathematics and coding courses. Although the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted selection and planning, Gunesh was able to select a high school girl who was then provided a comprehensive beginners coding course. “Her performance is really good,” says Gunesh. “I am going to help her with continuation of her education in the IT field.” Gunesh hopes to continue the program in order to connect more girls to educational resources and encourage them to pursue STEM fields.
Report Date...: 8/31/20
Fellows launch Central Asia mentoring platform
Fellow(s): Elena Selezneva, Saida Yusupova
2016 fellows Elena Selezneva and Saida Yusupova have launched Mentoring Platform for Central Asia, an initiative that seeks to connect mentors to startups in Central Asia. The project is a part of Tech4Impact, an NGO the fellows established in 2019 to nurture IT, innovation, green tech and women’s entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia. TECH4Impact’s programs include participation in a yearly Ideathon, startup conferences, Technovation Uzbekistan and more.
Through their new platform, the fellows will match businesses to both regional and international mentors. “We have [a] lack of local mentors, and the idea is to provide mentorship opportunities to local startups,” says Elena. They have already recruited 2016 fellow Ozoda Ismailova and longtime TechWomen mentor Erin Keeley to serve as mentors on the platform. Over the last few months, Erin has delivered three webinars for the initiative, including one on customer development.
This week, the fellows held a mock sales pitch event for startups from ClimateLaunchpad, a global green tech competition, as well as startups from a local science accelerator. Soon they plan to engage the TechWomen alumnae community and local leaders in order to strengthen the network of mentors on their platform.
Report Date...: 8/17/20
Mentor(s): Tanu Chellam (Mentor)
Mentor Type: Professional
TechWomen Professional Mentor Tanu Chellam was named a recipient of the YWCA Silicon Valley’s Tribute to Women Awards, an annual event that honors women executive leaders and emerging leaders throughout Silicon Valley. The awards’ sponsor, YWCA, is a local organization that works to eliminate racism and empower women in Silicon Valley through advocacy and programming. One of their initiatives, Curated Pathways to Innovation, supports women and underrepresented minorities in pursuing a career in STEM.
Each year the awards ceremony honors up to 50 women leaders and attracts over 800 attendees. Tanu, who worked as a product management lead at Autodesk, was selected for her achievements in her field and for expanding professional opportunities for other women. She has since relocated to London to serve as co-founder and head of product at a startup.
Report Date...: 8/10/20
Fellows nominated as Microsoft Community Ambassadors
Fellow(s): Ouafa Benterki and Fatima Zohra Benhamida
Cohort: 2012, 2017
Fellows of Algeria Ouafa Benterki (2012) and Fatima Zohra Benhamida (2017) were recently selected as community ambassadors for the Microsoft Humans of IT initiative. Community ambassadors work together to share tech for good expertise, create positive social impact and mentor Microsoft student ambassadors who are developing career paths in STEM. This year’s Humans of IT initiative is in partnership with five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), where community ambassadors will collaborate alongside the institutions’ computer science faculties to create opportunities for student ambassadors to do tech for good projects alongside IT professionals.
Ouafa, founder of the first Algerian women-led startup specializing in artificial intelligence, was appointed as a Microsoft regional director last year, becoming the first Algerian and first African woman to hold the role. Fatima, an assistant professor of computer science and board member of the TechWomen/TechGirls Club Algeria, was also recently awarded by Microsoft as a Most Valuable Professional (MVP). The MVP award is attributed to experts in recognition of their exceptional leadership and as appreciation for their outstanding volunteering contributions in technical communities. “When I started volunteering, all I wanted was to help youth within my community to thrive and have practical insights about STEM”, Fatima says. “My motivation and eagerness to give back to the community is stronger and I’ll make sure the more I learn, the more I will share.”
Report Date...: 8/3/20