Impact Stories from Empowering Women and Girls 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
Campaign names fellow a leading woman in business
Fellow(s): Nabila Bashir
2018 fellow Nabila Bashir was recognized as a leading woman in business by Women in Business Arabia in partnership with Etihad Bank. Their campaign, 365 Inspiring Arab Women, features an Arab woman in business each day of 2020.
Nabila is the senior business development manager at Queen Rania Teacher Academy, an initiative of Queen Rania of Jordan that empowers young people with 21st century skills. Previously, Nabila worked for 17 years at Repton New English School as a teacher, academic director and head of the IT and computer science department. There, she received the Queen Rania Outstanding Teacher Award. “I am fortunate to be a member of the Queen Rania Teacher Academy, surrounded by professional educators and great leaders,” says Nabila.
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 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
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
Mentor(s): Rekha Pai-Kamath (mentor)
Mentor Type: Impact
Impact Coach Rekha Pai-Kamath recently moderated a panel for swissnex San Francisco, an initiative of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation that facilitates discussion and connection between Switzerland and the San Francisco Bay Area. Rekha is a partner and impact investor at SV2, whose model focuses on grants and impact investing, learning programs, capacity building and family engagement.
In “Beyond Silicon Valley: Why Inclusion is Important Right Now,” Rekha and experts in diversity and inclusion from the Bay Area and Europe spoke about ways to build more inclusive economies, more egalitarian systems and a greater sense of belonging in the workplace. However, when prompted to speak about success stories, George McCalman of MCCALMAN.CO cautioned the audience about the work ahead: “The hope is that you will be inspired and apply it to your own life, but no one should be applauding,” he said. “This is an ongoing problem. Racism is virulent, it’s a cancer, it’s everywhere.”
Report Date...: 8/24/20
Fellow shares expertise at the Virtual Nutrition Conference
Fellow(s): Mercy Sosanya
2015 fellow Mercy Sosanya was a featured speaker at this week’s Virtual Nutrition Conference, an event organized by the Aisha Buhari Foundation, the NGO founded by the First Lady of Nigeria. Mercy is a nutritionist and Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin, focusing on the nutrition of young Nigerian mothers and their infants.
During her presentation, Mercy shared her research and provided strategies to combat malnutrition in Nigeria. “I expounded the pivotal role of adequate nutrition in health, and how it contributes to securing future generations from poverty and disease,” said Mercy. “Over 1,000,000 children die every year in Nigeria, and half of these deaths are due to undernutrition.” Mercy presented the “ABCDE’s” of how Nigeria can curb malnutrition: Acknowledge progress, look Beyond numbers, Coordinate and commit, employ Data-driven actions and properly Evaluate the efficacy of solutions.
Report Date...: 8/24/20
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
Fellow designs chatbot to support victims of GBV in Cameroon
Fellow(s): Cresence Elodie
2018 fellow Cresence Elodie, founder of WETECH, announced a new partnership that will support victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in rural areas of Cameroon.
WETECH’s programs work to support African girls and women in the fields of entrepreneurship and technology. Their new partnership with the Center for Advocacy, Gender Equality and Action for Development (CAGEAD) used WETECH’s technology to design and launch “Alert GBV,” a chatbot similar to Sandra, WETECH’s COVID-19 chatbot that shares information on symptoms and local initiatives that support Cameroonians. Alert GBV, now available on the CAGEAD website, allows victims of Gender-Based Violence in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon to maintain anonymity but access support from organizations and health professionals. Visitors to the CAGEAD site receive a pop up chat from Alert GBV that connects them to a virtual assistant prepared to answer their questions and address their needs.
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