Impact Stories from Youth Engagement Policy Area
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
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 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 shares insights on using open source tools for teaching
Fellow(s): Chioma Ezedi
TechWomen mentors Jessica Dickinson Goodman and Fatema Kothari, both board members of the Internet Society of the San Francisco Bay Area, recently started a blog series on the organization’s website, highlighting tech leaders from outside of the United States. Chioma Ezedi, 2016 fellow of Nigeria, contributed to the series, writing about how she is using open source tools such as Arduino to teach computer science in rural Nigeria.
Chioma is a software developer who is passionate about education technology and currently serves as a project lead and mentor at STEMTeers, an initiative to inspire, engage and promote children and youth into STEM. In the blog post, she outlines the challenges STEM education is facing in Nigeria due to the lack of infrastructure and equipment, which has been further exacerbated by schools closing due to the pandemic. With the increasing availability of open source resources being iterated and improved upon, she sees the opportunity for them to enhance students’ learning during this time and beyond: “I realized Open Source is for more than free tools, software or hardware; it was a great opportunity to learn, learn by building and create with innovation.”
Report Date...: 7/27/20
Fellow(s): Alaa Khoja
This week, 2019 fellow of Libya Alaa Khoja celebrated the completion of Teccamp, an eight-week web and mobile app course for young students in Libya. Teccamp is run through Alaa’s employer, Tatweer Research, a company that educates and empowers Libya’s young entrepreneurs. Alaa works as their community development officer, responsible for selecting Teccamp’s trainers and applicants as well as supervising the program. Teccamp’s goal is to instill in its graduates an entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring them to start businesses of their own.
Originally planned to be in-person, the course was moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alaa and her team also faced internet issues and persistent 10-hour power outages, requiring them to try different technologies and work together to usher the students through the learning process. Ultimately, their students – mostly comprised of university students and new graduates — were trained in front-end and back-end languages, database design and app development. Trainees also applied their knowledge to innovative projects that they presented at the conclusion of the course. “Teccampers went through a lot this time,” said Alaa. “But nothing inspired me more than their stamina and their love of learning.”
Report Date...: 7/20/20
TechWomen alumnae offer advice and inspiration for TechGirls
Fellow(s): Azhar Mambetova, Dalel Mansour, Faten Khalfallah, Ghada Ameen, Nisreen Deeb, Sara Dib
Country: Algeria, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Tunisia
Cohort: 2013, 2015, 2018, 2019
Recently, TechGirls created a resource for TechGirls participants and girls interested in STEM fields to hear from TechWomen fellows, receive mentorship and learn about careers in STEM. Profiles of Women in STEM features TechWomen fellows from Algeria, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and Tunisia who created videos sharing their career journeys and the lessons they learned along the way.
Fellows Azhar Mambetova (Kyrgyzstan, 2019), Dalel Mansour (Tunisia, 2015), Faten Khalfallah (Tunisia, 2015) Ghada Ameen (Egypt, 2018), Nisreen Deeb (Lebanon, 2013) and Sara Dib (Algeria, 2019) participated in the initiative, highlighting their career wins and challenges, and offering advice for girls who are curious about STEM. “I chose to teach in technology because I wanted to inspire others…and you can inspire others too,” said Faten, who also gave advice for finding a career in STEM: “I advise all the TechGirls, all the girls, to discover many domains and many subjects. I advise them to choose the career that you love,” she said. Azhar chronicled her career in banking and fintech, speaking about what drives her to mentor others: “In my career, I hadn’t had a lot of role models…and at some point, I decided I can become one,” she said. Nisreen presented on her experience as a woman in tech, encouraging girls to raise their voice, ask for help and give back to their community. “I’m really proud to be a woman in tech,” she said. “Why? Because we can inspire, we can give back to our community and we can help other people.”
Report Date...: 7/13/20
Fellow shares advice to young entrepreneurs in webinar
Fellow(s): Salma Gherraby
This week, 2019 fellow Salma Gherraby delivered a webinar for young entrepreneurs in Morocco, sharing best practices on building a thriving business. The series, [email protected], is hosted by Ajtcd, a local NGO, with support from the U.S. Embassy Rabat.
Salma is the founder and CEO of Business Innovation, a tech consultancy and training firm. In her session, “10 Steps to Launch my Startup,” Salma presented on establishing a foundation for startups, developing an entrepreneurial mindset and understanding the entrepreneurial ecosystem within Morocco. She also shared her own journey in entrepreneurship and technology, demonstrating how she has built her own brand, developed a business model and learned how to effectively problem solve throughout her career. “45 people stayed and concentrated until the end, were interactive and even stayed after the session,” said Salma.
Report Date...: 6/29/20
Fellow featured as advocate for gender equality in STEM fields
Fellow(s): Sadaf Shaheen
This week, 2018 fellow Sadaf Shaheen was interviewed in City Pulse magazine, an online periodical from Amnick, a UK-based social enterprise consulting firm. Sadaf is an international collaborator for their Smart Cities program.
In the feature, Sadaf reflects on the challenges she has faced as a woman in tech in Pakistan, sharing her work to dispel stronglyheld gender stereotypes within the country. “I knew it would be especially hard for me to enter the notoriously male-dominated field given the deeply entrenched gender norms in Pakistan, but I did it anyway,” she said. “Now, I am working as a role model in my native town for young girls.” Sadaf also spoke about her participation in the TechWomen program, as well as her upcoming professional goals. Soon, she hopes to launch a startup that trains women and girls in STEM fields, as well as expand her work as regional ambassador for Technovation.
Report Date...: 6/29/20