Impact Stories from Entrepreneurship Policy Area
Fellows organize hackathon for COVID-19 innovation
Fellow(s): Josephine Ndambuki and Chepkemoi Magdaline
Cohort: 2013, 2019
Recently, fellows Josephine Ndambuki (2013) and Chepkemoi Magdaline (2019) helped organize and execute The Great COVID-19 Innovation Challenge, an international hackathon that challenged individuals, startups and organizations to apply innovative tech solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya. The hackathon was hosted by Konza Technopolis, Josephine’s employer, as well as the Association of Countrywide Hubs, of which Chepkemoi’s company, EldoHub, is a member.
Over the course of 72 hours, the hackathon brought together 316 innovator communities from 47 countries to harness the power of technology and demonstrate how partnerships can solve leading challenges. Each hackathon group was tasked with addressing one of three challenges — Kenya’s health systems, food systems or economy — and finding ways to leverage technology for change. Submissions were judged by a distinguished group of panelists, including the British High Commissioner to Kenya, and three winning teams were chosen. “We congratulate our outstanding teams,” Josephine wrote. “We look forward to working further to make these homegrown brands.”
Report Date...: 6/15/20
Fellow and mentor collaborate for digital meetup
Fellow(s): Imene Henni Mansour, Maya Bisineer (mentor)
Country: Algeria, United States
This month, 2019 fellow Imene Henni Mansour launched Digital Meetup, a weekly virtual series meant to create a bridge between Silicon Valley and the MENA region and feature tech leaders sharing their expertise. Imene is hosting the weekly series in partnership with Innocom, a communications agency where she works as general manager.
In the debut session, Imene invited her TechWomen Professional Mentor Maya Bisineer to speak about tools, strategies and tactics businesses can use to create resiliency during the global pandemic. Maya is an entrepreneur, advisor and the director of product management at GoDaddy. In her session, Maya spoke about the value of long term thinking – focusing on the marathon, not the sprint – and how people in tech can bring a long term perspective to their businesses. She also spoke about how to build a resilient business that can flourish through hardship with an innovative and experimental mindset: “Always train hard and prepare for the unknown,” she advised.
Imene will continue to feature TechWomen mentors and fellows in Digital Meetup, working to share best practices for people in tech around the world. “I started with my mentors because they really encourage me,” she said.
Report Date...: 5/25/20
Forced to close centers fellow makes online learning free for all
Fellow(s): Rana El Chemaitelly
2017 fellow Rana El Chemaitelly is the founder of The Little Engineer, an initiative that educates students of all ages in robotics, coding, AI, 3D modeling and more at their five centers throughout Lebanon. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Rana made the early decision to close all her centers – home to high-touch surfaces for interactive STEM activities – in order to ensure the safety of the kids that participate in The Little Engineer’s 45 programs.
Rana, however, didn’t want to take learning opportunities away from students, especially as they faced increased difficulty learning at home. “I wanted to keep supporting kids and come out stronger,” she said. As a result, Rana made The Little Engineer online activities free to all students around the world, beginning with 3D modeling lessons in building and designing objects like boats, airplanes and houses. Rana knew that not all students would have the bandwidth to run her regular programs: “We had to be very fast-moving to enable everyone to be engaged online,” she says. Her solution was to use Tinkercad by Autodesk, a free app for 3D design and electronics. Word of the online programs spread, and The Little Engineer platform is now used by teachers and students in Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa and the U.S. “Teachers are focused on getting it right so they continue to provide a great educational experience for their students,” says Rana. “If we give opportunities to students, they can excel.”
Report Date...: 5/11/20
Fellow honored at With and For Girls Awards
Fellow(s): Fellow honored at With and For Girls Awards
Recently, 2017 fellow Carolyn Seaman was recognized for her work as a leader, educator and advocate for girls’ rights. Carolyn is the founder of Girls Voices, an initiative that trains and empowers adolescent girls in human rights, STEM skills and leadership. Girls Voices has reached over 300,000 girls through their programs, and has collaborated with the UN to create policies that seek to end child marriage, violence against women and human trafficking.
The awards ceremony, held this March in London by With and For Girls, honored 25 leaders of extraordinary girl-led and girl-centered initiatives. Girls Voices was recognized for promoting a girls’ rights movement in Nigeria and mobilizing girls to learn about their rights in order to positively affect their communities and contribute to national policy.
Report Date...: 5/11/20
Fellow innovates to support community during COVID-19
Fellow(s): Zebo Isakova
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2019 fellow Zebo Isakova has created two programs that provide resources and support to the Uzbek community.
Zebo first established a Telegram channel called “Together We are Stronger,” a space that connects users to psychologists who can support with feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as lawyers who can answer questions and provide resources for those who have lost their jobs. Zebo and her team also developed a Telegram bot where subscribers to Together We are Stronger can send in specific questions or concerns and get connected to the appropriate resources for their needs.
Zebo has also begun a second project, Media Aid During and After the Pandemic-2020 (MADAP-2020 ), which has already received funding from the European Union. MADAP-2020, which will soon be marketed as MediaAid4U, aims to combat disinformation associated with COVID-19 and the effects of the pandemic in Uzbekistan. Zebo plans to debut MediaAid4U in October with a mobile app and Telegram bot that will assist with recognizing fake news in both Uzbek and English. She hopes that it will eventually be used internationally. Zebo is a project manager as well as the head of the international relations department for the Kokand State Pedagogical Institute. Recently, she collaborated with TechWomen mentor Eileen Brewer in Uzbekistan to mentor over 30 women on entrepreneurship and business.
Report Date...: 5/4/20
Fellow featured for mentoring girls in STEM
Fellow(s): Ruth Kaveke
2017 fellow Ruth Kaveke, founder of Pwani Teknowgalz, was featured in a recent article from Impacthub Media, a platform that features changemakers who are solving the challenges facing Africa and the world.
In “Shining Hope for Girls in Science & Technology,” Ruth shares her story of being raised by a single mother who pushed her to value education, as well as the challenges she faced as a woman often outnumbered by men in her school courses. Ruth also speaks about her work and impact as the founder of Pwani Teknowgalz, her organization that has empowered over 5,000 girls through STEM education. “It is hard for someone to join a career that they do not have someone to relate to,” Ruth says. “By women mentoring and being role models, I am confident more girls will pursue STEM careers.” Recently, Ruth has offered free tech skill training to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a class on website-building using WordPress.com.
Report Date...: 5/4/20
Fellow holds Los Angeles Digital Day for tech professionals
Fellow(s): Ines Nasri
Country: Tunisia, United States
2014 fellow Ines Nasri organized and hosted the first Los Angeles Digital Day, a series of online workshops and sessions held this week. Originally scheduled for September as an in-person event in downtown Los Angeles, Ines accelerated the schedule and shifted to online programming. “When we saw what is happening to businesses around the world due to the pandemic, we thought that the event is needed now more than ever,” she wrote. The two-day event was attended by over 170 professionals from Canada, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and the United States.
Ines is a trainer, speaker and founder of WebPower Tunisie, a digital marketing agency that she founded in 2007. The Digital Day featured experts in digital marketing and innovation who spoke about the latest trends, digital challenges, digital readiness and more. Speakers also addressed the latest challenges that business owners and professionals are facing, sharing tips on productivity, optimizing working from home and communicating effectively with team members and customers. Impact Coach Eileen Brewer was a featured speaker, delivering a session on the five steps to a profitable pivot. “I always try to have someone from TechWomen in my events,” Ines said.
Report Date...: 4/27/20
Fellow featured in #HernovationPersonOfTheWeek series
Fellow(s): Sylvia Mukasa
This week, 2014 fellow Sylvia Mukasa was interviewed by CIO East Africa, a leading magazine for East Africa’s ICT industry. She was featured in their #HernovationPersonOfTheWeek series, an ongoing series that celebrates women leaders and innovators in ICT.
The article, “Believe In Yourself As A Woman in Tech; Gender Doesn’t Define Your Capability,” Sylvia shares her TechWomen experience, the lessons she learned as a former Next Einstein Forum Ambassador and her work as the founder and CEO of GlobalX Investments. When asked about her greatest challenge in STEM, Sylvia spoke about facing unconscious bias as a woman in her field. “Some people will never accept that gender does not define what we are capable of,” she said. “I decided to never let them get to my nerves, so I do not wait for their validation, I validate myself and so their opinion does not matter.”
Report Date...: 4/27/20
TechWomen mobilize around the world in response to COVID-19
Fellow(s): Faten Khalfallah, Lindiwe Matlali, Asmara Rahat, Reshma Singh
Country: Cameroon, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Tunisia, United States
Cohort: 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019
As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, TechWomen alumnae were already thinking ahead, applying their ingenuity to innovate for change. The latest TechWomen blog features stories of our fellows and mentors who, amidst uncertainty, have gone above and beyond to serve their communities.
After reaching her goal of 3D printing 1,000 masks for hospital staff, 2015 fellow of Tunisia Faten Khalfallah has begun production of protective gowns and face shields, sewing with colorful fabric that will, in her words “spread joy.” Africa Teen Geeks, the initiative founded by 2017 fellow of South Africa Lindiwe Matlali, has launched STEM Lockdown Digital School, a comprehensive online curriculum for students throughout the African continent. As of last week, the school had reached over 53,000 students. In Pakistan, 2019 fellow Asmara Rahat designed the first of its kind SMART thermal scanning and sanitizing gate, a system that both sanitizes and takes temperature readings in order to keep quarantine centers, mosques and public spaces safe. Mentor Reshma Singh created the Emergency Community Food Pantry, organizing volunteers to deliver food and goods to vulnerable families; the pantry has served over 1,000 families and counting. TechWomen will share additional updates as our alumnae continue to innovate, lead and support their communities.
Report Date...: 4/20/2020
Fellow featured as an EdTech leader in Cameroon
Fellow(s): Angele Messa
2019 fellow of Cameroon Angele Messe was recently interviewed for Gal Talks Tech, a website that features inspiring stories from leading women in tech around the world. Angele is the founder of EduClick, an initiative that brings alternative learning solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons in Cameroon. In the feature, Angele speaks about her work as an EdTech entrepreneur and her passion for educating rural youth who don’t have access to quality education. In addition to online learning, EduClick also runs a makerspace that offers classes in 3D printing, coding, virtual gaming and more.
Working in a male-dominated field, Angele strongly believes that women can excel through mentorship and creating supportive communities: “It’s important for women in tech to have that support system which will not only positively impact their professional lives but their personal lives as well,” she says.
Report Date...: 4/20/2020