TechWomen’s delegation comprised of 11 selected mentors from the Bay Area, 14 Kenyan fellows and fellows from Morocco, Nigeria and Rwanda gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, February 5-10. The first of two delegation trips, the annual delegation trips reinforce the TechWomen network, while providing a platform to support fellows in making an impact in their communities. The TechWomen delegation to Kenya reached more than 1,800 people of all ages, from primary school students to professionals in the STEM fields in and outside of Nairobi.
Since 2013, 22 women from Kenya have participated in TechWomen, and collectively, they shaped the delegation’s week of mentoring sessions, meetings and workshops. The mentors represented a diverse range of STEM fields, career paths and expertise. Based on objectives of the delegation trips – encourage and inspire girls and women in STEM, reinforce the sustainability of the TechWomen network, expand professional networks of women, and support fellows in making an impact at home – the delegation was a success.
Inspired by TechWomen fellows’ commitment to uplift educational opportunities through co-creation with local communities, the TechWomen delegation has pledged to raise $10,000 to co-sponsor a solar-powered computer lab in partnership with Safaricom, as well as support two other fellow-driven initiatives. Read more about the initiatives below, and help support their impact projects.
Day 1: Fellows, mentors kickoff delegation week with cultural tours
Jambo! Welcome to Kenya! The delegation visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a local elephant orphanage and rescue organization. The organization pioneers efforts to rescue elephants and help stop the damaging effects of poaching throughout Kenya. Continuing the nature theme, the delegation stopped by the Giraffe Centre and also explored the traditional culture of Kenya by visiting Bomas of Kenya, a homestead village.
With fellows representing the 2013-2016 cohorts, the welcome dinner highlighted each individual’s impact and work since participating in the TechWomen program.
Day 2: 2016 Fellow grows business, capitalizes on TechWomen experience and network
Representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi met with the delegation to discuss U.S.-Kenya relations and women and girls in Kenya – specifically women’s rights, human rights and social stigmas, as well as the U.S. commitment to helping young Kenyans devise solutions to local and global issues. The representatives included Beth Mugo, USAID/Kenya Gender and Inclusivity Specialist; Megan E. Larson- Kone, Cultural Affairs Officer; Heath Bailey, Economic Officer; and Halima N. Gichuki, Cultural Affairs Assistant.
The delegation made its first visit to a worksite of 2016 fellow Lucy Mutinda‘s company, Ecocyle. At the 2016 Impact Design workshop at Autodesk, Lucy participated in the Power of Social workshop. Since then, she has trained her employees on social media, particularly LinkedIn, which has resulted in more leads. “I realized how I could grow my business via social media,” Lucy said during the delegation’s visit to one out of her 60 work sites.
Lucy, founder of Ecocycle, was hosted at the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “I now have contacts to new products in the recycling business,” she explained. “My mentor gave me a network to better my work.” Lucy’s client noted how “Lucy brings a unique perspective that we don’t often see in Kenya.” Through Ecocycle, the client is able to recycle 22,500 liters per day of waste water for a residential area.
At Nailab, TechWomen Kenyan fellows hosted a networking event to discuss Techwomen impact in Kenya and delve into the theme of the event, “Sustainable Collaboration for Women in STEM.” Sam Gichuru, CEO of Nailab and co-founder of Kuhustle, welcomed the delegation and approximately 50 college students to the business incubator. Jessica Colaco, co-founder of Brave Venture Labs and the iHub, shared her path into tech and entrepreneurship, before TechWomen mentors and fellows Queen Denchukwu of Autodesk, Teresa Williams of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), Aliya Janjua of Advent Software and 2014 fellows Sandra Kambo and Umikaltuma Ibrahim Mohamed discussed TechWomen’s impact and the power of collaboration.
Day 3: One Desk One Child will provide desks for school, create jobs for local artisans
The 2016 Kenyan fellows have implemented their seed grant‐funded impact project, One Desk One Child (ODOC). The delegation had the opportunity to visit the primary school, Eiti Primary School in Kajiado, which ODOC will support. During the visit, Eileen Brewer of Symantec hosted a demo for school administrators on RACHEL Offline, a modem that provides access to educational resources without having to connect to the Internet.
ODOC will provide desks to two marginalized schools with an average population of between 200‐400 students to reduce the desk‐to‐child ratio from 1:10 to 1:3.
After the primary school visit, the delegation traveled to Noonkopir Girls High School in Kitengela for a panel discussion before breaking into smaller groups for mentorship sessions.
Day 4: Breaking the glass ceiling with students and fellow women in tech
At Mount Kenya University (MKU), home to 2015 fellow Dr. Nancy Cheseto, where she serves as the Deputy Director of Enterprise and Innovation, the TechWomen delegation had the opportunity to meet with university leadership and host a panel about career paths in STEM. Approximately 500 university students studying engineering, medicine, biochemistry, animal health, public health, ICT, engineering and more heard from Queen, Teresa, Ivonne Mejia of Veritas, Daniela Ushizima of LBL, Mollie Vandor of Twitter, Molly Glauberman of Fitbit and Beth Steinberg of Mensch Ventures. Following the visit to MKU, the delegation traveled to Garissa Road Slum Primary School to see a volunteer project by MKU students, led by TechWomen fellow Dr. Nancy.
Women in Technology (WIT) at SafariCom joined the delegation for a dinner and forum focused on leadership and breaking the glass ceiling. Mentors and fellows shared their experiences in a panel discussion about career development and work-life balance, followed by networking and table topic discussions. The forum allowed for candid conversations on how Safaricom WIT can break the glass ceiling with regard to career growth.
Day 5: 47-in-1 Project partners with communities to provide solar-powered computer labs, access to tech
Upon returning to Kenya after the TechWomen program in 2013, “I had a challenge to give back to the community,” Josephine Ndambuki explained to the TechWomen delegation at the Kamiu Primary School in Embu, Kenya. In collaboration with her employer, Safaricom, and with advice from her Silicon-Valley-based mentors, Josephine launched the 47-in-1 Project in 2015. The project aims to build a solar‐powered computer lab in a public school in each of the 47 counties in Kenya.
In order to give schools ownership of the project and to support the sustainability of the labs, each county raises 50% of the total $16,000 required for one lab. The other 50% is provided by donors and a central fundraising committee at Safaricom. “The beauty of this is the fact that it is not one person,” Josephine said. “There are 700 people helping with this initiative. We are integrating ICT into our country.” The TechWomen delegation pledged to raise $8,000 to sponsor one lab. So far, the project has deployed 18 labs.
At Kamiu Primary School, there are approximately 700 students, aged four to 14 years, and 19 teachers. The delegation hosted motherboard workshops for 100 students. The hands-on activity, developed by mentor Eileen, exposed students to motherboards using a step-by-step packet.
Day 6: “She believed she could, so she did STEM” Career Day
The delegation came together with approximately 150 high school students, 150 university students, 40 women from the government’s IT interns program and 70 other STEM professionals for Career Day at United States International University. The event addressed how Kenya benefits from having more people engaged in STEM and that girls should embrace STEM opportunities as the driving force of a country’s economy and development.
TechWomen is cultivating a breed of women in STEM, who are not only excelling in their fields, but are impacting their local communities, economies and more. The Kenya delegation trip reflected TechWomen’s impact on individuals and how empowered women with a supportive network can create change.