Impact Stories from Professional Growth Policy Area
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
In Medium piece fellow shares traits of trailblazers
Fellow(s): Haneen AbuFarha
Country: Palestinian Territories
In her latest piece on Medium, “Brainy is the new Trendy,” 2015 fellow Haneen AbuFarha shares the qualities of people who facilitate growth and challenge worldviews, listing the “brainy” people in her life who have changed her career perspective.
“They will listen, then listen more, and after that, they won’t give feedback immediately. They will first ask quick, sharp, consecutive two or three questions,” writes Haneen when describing the deep thinkers and entrepreneurs she’s met during her career. “Those questions will be so simple, yet so surprisingly not counted for before.” The first leader she lists is Mitchell Baker, CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, who she met during TechWomen. “Mitchell manifested how limitless a powerful woman can be. She would look you in the eye, read you in a glance, give quick two sentences, and wrap up with closing wisdom,” Haneen writes. She also shares her top lesson she learned from Mitchell: “Stop making baseless excuses that will stop you from reaching your fullest potential.”
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
Fellow delivers keynote on design and innovation in Africa
Fellow(s): Maureen Macharia
2018 fellow Maureen Macharia presented on the role of design in a post-COVID-19 era at last month’s UX South Africa, a virtual conference focused on designing for today, tomorrow and beyond. Maureen is a designer and founder of Spindle Design, an agency that partners with companies and entrepreneurs to bring people-centered design across multiple sectors throughout Africa.
In her keynote, Maureen spoke about how design can shape the future of innovation in Africa, focusing specifically on designing in a crisis: “Does design fit into shaping a post-crisis world? The short answer, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind: yes,” she said. Maureen stressed the need for designers to be agile, adaptive and ready to “unlearn, learn and re-learn.” She also spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has opened opportunities for designers to create new solutions, new collaborations and new avenues for partnerships: “Opportunity is all around us – we need to be the one to adapt to it,” she said.
Despite global shifts in work and workplaces, Maureen reminded the audience that design will always be a team sport, and together designers must innovate for change. “Don’t waste the crisis. Don’t waste your skills. It’s an opportunity to tap into a number of the challenges we see,” she said.
Report Date...: 8/10/20
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
Fellow featured in campaign celebrating women in STEM fields
Fellow(s): Houda Chihi
2019 fellow Houda Chihi was recently featured in the Nsesa Foundation’s ongoing STEM Wow series, where she shared her career highlights, her greatest achievements and the challenges she has faced as a woman in her field. Houda is a chief engineer at Tunisie Telecom and a senior researcher at Innov’COM Laboratory.
When asked about her greatest achievement, Houda spoke about her TechWomen experience, her mentorship at Qualcomm and her exposure to leading companies in the Bay Area’s tech ecosystem: “I knew that with all my achievements, the TechWomen program was my key to build new contacts over the world and to get the opportunity to visit and get training in leadership and soft skills from great companies such as Linkedin, Facebook, Salesforce, Twitter, and Symantec,” she said. Houda also shared advice for other women and girls who are curious about entering STEM careers: “My advice for women is to join the STEM field, as they will always feel excited and curious about new technologies. It is also a great opportunity to build strong networks,” she said.
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
Fellow completes Obama Foundation African Leaders program
Fellow(s): Refilwe Ledwaba
Country: South Africa
Recently, 2019 fellow of South Africa Refilwe Ledwaba completed the Obama Foundation African Leaders program. The program seeks to build a growing network of innovative and ethical changemakers who will drive positive change in their communities and beyond. During the year-long program, 200 emerging African leaders attend seminars focused on values-based leadership development, skill-building for social change, hands-on service learning and technical trainings.
Refilwe, South Africa’s first black female helicopter pilot, is the founder of the Girl Fly Programme in Africa (GFPA) Foundation, a non-profit organization empowering young women to go into STEM. Through the GFPA Foundation, she is addressing the challenges she faced when she entered the aviation industry by creating more access to opportunities for women, having learned ways to multiply her impact through the programs she has participated in. Refilwe says her biggest lesson learned from getting to know emerging leaders from all over the world through the TechWomen and Obama Foundation Leaders programs is to “continually challenge yourself and get out of that comfort zone.”
Report Date...: 8/3/2020
Fellow advocates for diversity and inclusion in magazine feature
Fellow(s): Lilian Motongori
2019 fellow of Kenya Lilian Motongori was featured in the lifestyle magazine, Vuuqa. For the Women’s Month Special issue, Vuuqa highlighted the work of women leaders in Africa who are making strides in their respective industries.
In her feature, Lilian talks about how staying persistent and believing in herself pushed her to study engineering when she was younger, allowing her to become the mechanical engineer and renewable energy expert she is today. She is also the co-founder of Women in Energy Africa, a platform that empowers women and girls in the green tech fields. Lilian highlights the need for more inclusive representation in STEM: “For far too long [women were] sidelined in decision making tables yet we matter, too” she says. “There is beauty and importance in diversity as it brings in new ideas and understanding to all parties involved.”
Report Date...: 8/3/20