Why We’re Celebrating International Day of the Girl Child

From the United Nation’s website: Since 2012, 11 October has been marked as the International Day of the Girl. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.

YTF day of the girl logo

International Day of the Girl is a time to stop and recognize what’s at stake if we don’t address the very real challenges girls face across the world. We take our role in this endeavor seriously and with great passion, and are honored to be one player among many doing phenomenal work.

This work is in our blood as an organization. We’ve seen girls in action, from events like our 3D Printing Academy for Girls, to a dedicated and consistent effort to learn and grow in our flagship program, YTF Academy. We’ve even made a commitment to train 6,000 out-of-school girls in Nigeria who are at risk of, or have survived, human trafficking in cutting-edge, in-demand technology skills. The passion and eagerness within each girl we encounter is palpable, and we’re delighted to play a role in creating an empowering environment.

Much of our work also aligns with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. It’s quite the motivator to run toward such a goal, but we do it knowing a multitude of other organizations and individuals are running in our pack.

The next frontier: Space for Women Project

 

3d pag with logo

While our work typically focuses on trainings like computer literacy and 3D printing, we’re eager to find other ways to empower girls to pursue STEM-related career paths. Just last week, our President and CEO, Njideka Harry, spoke at the UN’s Expert Meeting on Space for Women. It turns out the sky actually isn’t the limit to what girls can do!

The Space for Women project is organized by the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs, which has a vision “to bring the benefits of space to humankind,” and they are “committed to ensuring that those benefits reach women and girls, and that women and girls play an active and equal role in space science, technology, innovation and exploration.”

We’re particularly intrigued by specific discussions on education:

What are the skills needed to enter into the space sector?

 Includes STEM areas (math, aeronautics, physics, engineering, biology, earth science, etc), 21st century skills (creativity, collaboration, problem solving, curiosity, adaptability, etc), ancillary disciplines (innovation management, policymaking, law, journalism, marketing, education, etc), and application areas (e.g. environment).

Sounds like the perfect fit for us!

Njideka’s presentation, “Women in STEM:  Bridging the Gender Gap in Technical Careers” emphasized the need to innovate within existing teaching methodologies by encouraging girls to develop spatial skills. She highlighted the relevance of YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls in the U.S. and 3D Africa for Girls in Nigeria, where girls are inspired to pursue STEM through introductions to 3D Printing. 

Lessons from the humanitarian sector were highlighted by Dr. Kirsen Gelsdorf, including the first wrench to be 3D printed in space by Made in Space. The relevance of such technologies and women’s leadership and equal participation in innovation in the space sector is critical. 

Namira Salim, the first Pakistani astronaut, shared her experience with the cultural and socio-psychological challenges of growing up as a young girl in Pakistan, in the delivery of her presentation, “Space Diplomacy and Making.”

The group jointly explored what areas in satellite technologies can explicitly help girls and women. Using the recent earthquake in Mexico as a crisis example, participants explored what types of products, partnerships and policies would need to be put in place that will be beneficial to women. One piece of information coming out of the earthquake showed a striking need for this conversation: 70 percent of the casualties in Mexico were women because they were at home caring for children and/or elderly parents when the earthquake struck.

For now and for the future

 

Intl Day of the Girl single

When girls grow up, we know the barriers don’t go away. We work with female entrepreneurs like Aishat, who have navigated unnecessary roadblocks to start and grow a business just because she’s a woman.

To the women of the future, and all the girls yet to come – we’re see you, we believe in you, and we’re not going to stop fighting for you. As was noted throughout the event: “Women hold up half the sky? No, women hold up half the universe.”

Cracking the Code: Helping Youth in Africa Compete in the 21st Century

Africa Code Week trainer

Nnamdi shares a high five with students at a YTF partner school in Lagos, Nigeria.

Post by Nnamdi Iheme, YTF Master Trainer in Nigeria

Youth for Technology (YTF) is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Africa Code Week, an initiative spearheaded by SAP as part of its social investment in Africa. We are focused on cultivating paths to a successful future for youth across Africa and investing in our own people to help train thousands of future coders. This effort is all about encouraging and helping African youth to say their first “Hello world!” in coding and give them the ability to help build a future for themselves and their world.

Africa Code Week is an annual event usually held during the second week of October. The week involves hands-on workshops where kids and young adults are introduced to coding and encouraged to pursue a future in information technology. This helps to close the widening digital skills gap and empower Africans to build sustainable growth by creating enough qualified IT talent.

Can We Really Teach Kids to Code?

Africa Code Week trainer showing coding

Coding is simply giving instructions to a computer to execute. Just like we give instructions to fellow team members using human languages, we can also give instructions to computers using computer languages. The ability to know and structure these special computer instruction languages is what we call coding.

According to Africa Code Week organizers, coding is the literacy of the digital age: a whole new language for children to speak fluently and express themselves in the 21st century. Many different programing languages (which include more of the logic behind the coding) were built to serve a variety of platforms, but their creation all has a common thread: creative and analytical thinking. It’s clear that programming will only make our younger generation better problem solvers, touching all areas of their life.

We’re so passionate about teaching kids to code that we integrate coding into our core technology programming in YTF Academy. We teach coding all year because we know this can be a critical skill to help youth find success by completing their education and staying in a good job. This is why, in our spirit of “delivering to the community” at YTF, it was a no-brainer to embrace the Africa Code Week movement and make a quick jump onto this platform of change and hope.

Investing in Our People and the Youth We Serve

Africa Code Week train the trainer event

YTF Master Trainers provide training to teachers in Ondo state during the ACW Train-the-Trainer sessions in Akure in August.

YTF is a network partner for Africa Code Week, so we work to develop local partnerships with Ministries of Education, primary and secondary schools, universities and other non-profits to ensure as many students are equipped with coding skills as possible.

YTF strongly supports the mission of Africa Code Week as an avenue to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century workforce and become key actors of Africa’s economic development. In past years, YTF trained over 1,500 youth during Africa Code Week in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.

This year, we are raising the bar. 

YTF Nigeria has already contacted partnering institutions around the country to work with, and we’re pleased to have plans set to train over 1,500 youth in Nigeria alone. We will work with primary and secondary schools to teach students ages 8-17 basic Scratch skills. Youth ages 18-24 will be immersed in web technologies like HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and SQL.

In August, I traveled to Akure, Ondo State with two other Master Trainers to participate in a Train-the-Trainer session. Our wealth of experience helped prepare other teachers from Ondo State who came to be trained to eventually lead students in the 2017 edition of Africa Code Week. Most of the teachers weren’t coders, but we were able to show them that their lack of experience wouldn’t be a barrier.

This training was critical to help trainers resolve some technical issues with their computers, install software, and train them on how to program with Scratch. By the end they were able to create simple animations and games with Scratch and felt satisfied with what they learned during the training.

The trainees will take this learning back to their communities for the code week, where they will organize and carry out the program in their schools, transferring the knowledge they gained to the students.

To continue reaching more teachers and students, we’re excited to send several other YTF Master Trainers to join the Train-the-Trainer session in Abuja later this month. 

Africa! Shall We Begin?

Africa Code Week instructor

We believe so much in the future of Africa, especially as youth build a better world with technology. We are committed to putting youth on pace with the demands of a future workforce – every day in YTF Academy, and when opportunities like Africa Code Week arise. Programming is one of the most valued skills in the 21st century and we believe it’s never too early or too late to learn programming. The time is now. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands on a keyboard. 

Follow our journey to see how we provide these coding skills to youth in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda during Africa Code Week next month.

Nnamdi Iheme is a Software Design Lead and Master Trainer in YTF Academy. One of his responsibilities is running Africa Code Week for YTF-Nigeria.

YTF Team’s Invention Takes Top Prize at Open Mic Africa

Ytf Open Mic (262)

In late July, we sent teams of innovators – fresh out of HackforGood 2017 – to Open Mic Africa.

Hosted by MIT’s Legatum Center, Open Mic Africa is a “Pan-African tour organized by the Legatum Center at MIT to discover and support local entrepreneurs who are bringing their knowledge to bear on their continent’s greatest challenges. Open Mic Africa aims to find and showcase Africa’s top innovators while developing a dialogue among local entrepreneurs, investors, and MIT.”

We were honored to have teams participate, and are especially pleased to report that one of YTF’s teams took home the top prize!

The winning team – Team RAA – is named after their invention: the Road Accident Alert (RAA). Their idea was conceived and developed at YTF’s HackforGood 2017, and then modified for Open Mic Africa.

Ytf Open Mic (1)

The winning idea a life-securing device that senses a car crash and alerts local authorities. It provides first responders with the GPS location of the crash site to help direct the response and reduces the time it takes to arrive on-site.

“Basically, it will reduce the rate at which people die after accidents by calling for help immediately when the accident occurs,” explained team member Emmanuel Izuwa. “This was our key point during the pitch.”

“We know there is a gap in prompt communication from an accident site to the emergency rescue team and that time gap is crucial to the survival of the victims,” said another team member, Maruf Adewole. “We move to shorten that gap.”

How the Accident Alert Came Together

Ytf Open Mic (273)

To create the alert system, hackers pulled together their experience and collaborated on skills like programming, CAD modeling, electronics, and fabrication.

Team members shared that the most challenging aspect of building RAA was getting the right sensors.

“Building a device that can detect a car crash is not easy,” said Izuwa. “Sensors must be placed in the right position for maximum efficiency of the system.”

Maruf explained one challenge was breaking down the idea into manageable tasks and finding the appropriate components to handle them.

Building an Entrepreneur Community

Ytf Open Mic (134)

While each team member brought critical skills to the table, they were all thrilled to meet and work with their peers.

YTF intern and team member, Miracle Onyeyanu, shared:“I got to meet people with skill, drive and passion for technology. I wouldn’t have met these people if not for HackforGood 2017. It was an awesome experience working with people of like minds, my team members were ready to deliver any time they were called upon. Everyone played his or her own role perfectly well. They helped me appreciate the concept of team work.”

“The experience was truly amazing,” said Maruf. “I was given the opportunity to practicalize what I have been learning for quite a while. It also introduced me to new stuff such as 3D printing and Arduino Uno.”

Calling All Innovators

YTF Open Mic team members hug

Team members offered advice to the dreamers and doers out there who are hoping to solve local problems through technology.

“My advice tech idealists and innovators is that they should acquire technical skills anywhere and anytime they can,” Emmanuel shared.

Maruf implored, “We need innovators, we seriously need them. Who could have imagined electricity could be this useful before the days of Edison, JP Morgan and Tesla. Innovations will always drive our future as long as they solve problems and make life easier. However, it could be frustrating at times. Be sure of what you are doing and be passionate with it. There will always be reward for excellence.”

“They should not give up because Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Onyenanu said. “It takes persistence and perseverance to get to the top.”

The Role of Technology and Youth in Kenya’s Just-Concluded General Elections

“A great democratic turnaround”

Joe speaking to MBA students from Kellogg School of Management/Northwestern University during a recent visit to YTF in Nairobi.

Joe speaking to MBA students from Kellogg School of
Management/Northwestern University during a recent visit to YTF in
Nairobi.

Kenya has been going through a transition of power through a general election – a cycle that typically runs every five years – and in reflecting following the election, it’s clear the time has come for a new chapter for Kenya’s youth.

Throughout Kenya’s history, and even more so in recent times, youth have been viewed by politicians as people to be used and exploited. Youth are often told that they will be the leaders of tomorrow, so they should support political parties or politicians of today as they await their chance in the future.

Youth in Kenya are also considered cheap labor, without opinions of their own, so it’s assumed they will simply conform to whatever they are told by politicians. Case in point: During Kenya’s darker days in the early nineties when the country was fighting for multi-party politics, youth were given small incentives—often between $2 and $5—to throw stones at a rival politicians. Shortly after the politician was elected; he inevitably forgot the youth he rallied during the election, leaving them frustrated.

Today, it’s becoming clear that trend of manipulation is fast losing its grip on the majority of youth in the country.

What’s Changing for Youth in Kenya

The government over the years has set up youth empowerment programs that help youth cluster together so they are able to get small loans and grants to start businesses in groups. This has helped a great deal to counter idleness as more and more youth are engaged in useful businesses.

The easy availability of low-cost unsecured mobile phone-based loans by banks have also helped advance youth opportunities. These loans enable anyone subscribed to get small loans that are payable within a short period, sometimes even days or weeks, or at the end of the month. This access to short-term, unsecured credit has greatly contributed to the success story that we tell today.

Despite these advances, we still have an outstanding challenge, as youth in Kenya are still largely unemployed. Those who are not involved in meaningful economic activities that can keep them engaged and keep them off drugs, crime and violence need additional outlets and avenues to find success. This is where organizations like Youth for Technology Foundation come in.

The Role of Social Media in Keeping the Peace

Social media has also played an increasing role as an influencer to combat violence issues, especially during elections. Given that 90 percent of Kenyans have access to a mobile phone and use them as a connection to the internet, major campaigns have been channeled through social media to keep peace, and maintain a spirit of brotherliness. The Youth for Technology Foundation is proud to play a part in investing in Kenyan youth, teaching technology skills in Kenya like basic digital literacy, software development and programming.

One funny thing happened during the election that helped quell some major tension that was creeping in between our government’s party and the major opposition party – an occurrence that wouldn’t have been possible without social media.

On the actual election day a man by the name of Martin Kamotho was photographed holding a plastic bag with the githeri dish (maize and beans) while standing in the election que. The photo was posted on Facebook, where someone found it funny and took it one step further, photoshopping the man into different photos and settings. The #githeriman photoshopping craze went viral – he even found himself as the new fifth head on Mt Rushmore!

This poor city council worker who collected garbage became a millionaire practically overnight, spurred by media appearances and a shower of gifts, just for having a cheap amount of githeri in a plastic bag. He united Kenyans in hysterical laughter during an uncertain moment in our elections.

Technology Enabling Peaceful Elections and Sustainable Communities

The elections are now over and there was no violence this time. While there was an election dispute between the government and opposition, they decided to square it out in the courts instead of war on the streets.

We know technology plays a huge role in election fraud and violence, particularly in developing countries like Kenya. We are preparing the future generation to be more interested in how technology can be used to ensure even more peaceful elections by giving them the broad skills that they can then apply to create more sustainable communities for their fellow citizens.

While we are not yet there in democratic electoral maturity, we are on the right track. Given the direction were going in, it is just a matter of time before electoral violence become a thing of the past forever.

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Joe Kamau Macharia is YTF’s Country Lead based in Kenya.  He writes from Nairobi where he is responsible for building partnerships with the public, private sector and civil society. Joe is using his passion for youth and technology to help young people achieve their personal goals and become leaders in their communities.

HackforGood 2017: Our Hackathon in Nigeria

Five teams had three days to create technology innovations to solve specific problems in their communities at our recent HackforGood hackathon in Anambra State, Nigeria. The cohort came with diverse experiences and skill sets, as captured in this summary of applicants.

Dig in to the final prototype ideas below!

Team Hack-botics Designed and Constructed a Robotic Arm Manipulator (Hackathon Winners!)

3d Africa Hackathon winning team

Summary: The group designed and developed a compact and cost effective robotic arm manipulator that could be modified to fit into different industrial situations.

How it works: The team used servomotors as actuators (Arduino based robotic arm with 6 degrees of freedom). A specific application idea of this product is in bakeries for lifting bread and placing it in the oven. Materials used include wood and Polylactic acids (PLA), with about 40 percent of the parts created through 3D printing. Due to time constraints, maximum payload of the arm was 100g. The design could be modified to lift heavier loads. The device could also be upgraded to use remote controls.

Team Create Good Developed a Road Traffic Accident Alert (Winners of Open Mic  Africa!)

Hackathon team open mic africa winners project accident detection

Summary: The group developed a device that detects and informs relevant authorities of critical conditions affecting vehicles and victims on local roads for a quicker emergency response.

How it works: When an accident occurs, the impact generated is measured by impact sensors attached to the device. The impact sensors generate signals which are channeled to a GPS module that generates GPS coordinates at the site of the accident. The GPS signal or coordinates dispatches the distress alarm in 10 seconds to the authorities, in this case the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) central control at Abuja. The central control would transmit the emergency response to the local FRSC station nearest to the scene of the accident for a quick emergency response. False signals can be interrupted by a pushbutton on a dash board to prevent the dispatch of a distress signal.

TeamTechkers Created A Hybrid Solar Wind Power Generation

Hackathon team techkers group photo

Summary: The group designed a hybrid solar wind power generation system to avoid the hazards associated with the use of fossil fuel such as green house effect and global warming.

How it works: The system consists of solar powered panels and a wind turbine. The two systems are interlinked with a charge controller that controls or regulates power generation. The solar system works during the day and wind system works during the night. Both systems are controlled by a timing circuit that helps to effect switching through the aid of transistors and relays for DC and contactors for AC. These charge controllers are designed using various electronic devices and are interlinked with the help of a TM electronic module.

Team Humanity Created Green Lens Crop Disease Detector

hackathon Team humanity crop disease detector

Summary: The group developed a device that helps farmers diagnose plant diseases.

How it works: According to cropsite, 40 percent of farm yield are lost before harvest yearly to pests. Nigeria recently experienced a devastating tomato disease caused by the pest Tuta absoluta which destroyed over 80 percent of tomato farms in the country within two months. This new device comprises an image acquisition module, microprocessor and a display. Through the image acquisition module, the farmer could acquire the image of the plant which is to be diagnosed. The image is then automatically processed using computer vision algorithm and Artificial Neural Network (ANN) running on the processor. The result of the test is displayed on the screen or an audio message is played in the farmer’s local language. The results may also be sent to organizations like International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for awareness in order to prepare for a possible epidemic outbreak.

Team Vision 3D Created Eco Farm Monitor

hackathon team vision 3d

The group developed a sensing device that can monitor real-time temperature and humidity in a poultry house. This addresses issues like unfavorable weather and climatic conditions that could lead to high mortality and low egg production rates. The components include an Arduino board, DHT sensor, LCD, and battery.

project graphic

We’re grateful for our judges and student ambassadors for making the event a success, and Ventures Africa, the Guardian and Africa.com for their coverage.

A special thanks to our partners and sponsors: HP, Merck, Autodesk, Makerbot, and Women in 3D Printing, and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University for hosting.

Find out more about 3D Africa and other YTF programs.

Strength, Stamina and Shoes: One Entrepreneur’s Story

In a showroom at a shopping mall in Lagos, Nigeria, 24-year-old Aishat runs her shoe business, Aeesha Collections. It first opened in the mall and online at the beginning of this year, but Aishat has been building her career since 2012 when she graduated from university. This past March, Aishat joined our celebration for International Women’s Day when she hosted employees from our partner Mastercard at her store. 

shoemaker nigeria mastercard employee

A Mastercard employee cuts out the leather as Aishat applies gum to the sole of the shoe.

As the CEO of Aeesha Collections, Aishat is part of an entrepreneurs’ network focused on continuing their education and uplifting each other to pursue their passion. Entrepreneurship is attractive to women on so many levels, as Aishat explained:

“Every woman wants to be on her own. No woman wants to be a liability and more so, it’s inspiring when you see a young woman like me doing well for herself in her business, you will feel like doing your own thing. Also, a salary job and getting a good pay is tasking in this country. You can’t have full possession of your time and be making good money while doing a salary job. Everyone, including women, wants their time to themselves.”

female entrepreneur speaking

Aishat speaks at a YTF training session for women entrepreneurs.

 

Taking a Step in the Right Direction

Aishat chose her profession as a shoemaker with determination. She explains the process she went through in exploring her options and what path her passions led her to in the end.

“Growing up, I wanted to become a banker, but I was no longer pleased with the profession,” said Aishat. “I had always wanted to learn a skill and make-up artistry was what I considered, but my cousin advised me to do something different. I had always loved shoes so I thought to myself what could be more satisfying than making them. So I made my decision to learn shoemaking and that was the start of my career.”

Aishat explains that she had only thought of shoemaking as hobby in her undergraduate career. The idea to start her business was originally “to while away time with learning a vocational skill,” but it turned into her full-time job.

shoemaker entrepreneur with mastercard employees

Mastercard employees assisting Aisha in applying gum to shoe soles at her workshop.


Technology Makes the Impossible, Possible

As many seasoned entrepreneurs can attest, not everything is sunshine and roses for a business owner. Aishat knows she will likely continue to face problems with the unequal manner society treats females in business, in addition to the many issues any business owner faces.

“Being in a male dominated industry has been really challenging, people look down on you thinking you can’t offer as much as a male would,” said Aishat. “Also, getting an investor, especially a male, never comes easy because they ask for some favor in return.”

Another major challenge is getting materials needed to make the shoes. Machines that produce quality leather soles aren’t available in Nigeria, so importing those materials adds to production costs. It’s in difficult situations like this where YTF’s technology training really makes a difference. 

learning 3d printing

Aishat learning the basics of 3D printing up close and personal.

 

About a year ago, Aishat learned about a possible solution to the lack of readily available materials for her shoemaking business when YTF and Mastercard paired up to teach women entrepreneurs about 3D printers. The entrepreneurial training sessions featured 3D printing technology and a heavy dose of inspiration, sharing the many possibilities afforded through the technology.

Aishat was thrilled. “This 3D printer will allow me to print shoe soles and customize my shoes,” she shared. “It is a phenomenal experience that I am grateful to have been a part of. I hope to get the machine to ease the stress of importation on my business.”

Aishat nigerian female entrepreneur

Aishat holding up the #BeingBold sign for International Women’s Day in front of her store at the Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall.

Aishat holding up the #BeingBold sign for International Women’s Day in front of her store at the Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall.

We love when women empower women. Aishat takes this call to heart, sharing a message to empower each women entrepreneur she encounters.

“I stand to celebrate every woman out there who is a trailblazer and is making waves in whatever you do. I am Aishat, and I am standing bold for change, ready to make a difference and standing in for the unheard voices of hard-working women in business.”

The Team Behind YTF: One Staffer Brings Design Thinking to Kenya

By Mary Munyoki, Master Trainer, YTF Academy

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I’ve been with YTF for about two years as a Master Trainer in Kenya, mentoring girls and helping students learn basic computer programming and hardware technology. Earlier this month, I jumped at the chance to represent the Kenya YTF office at an eSkills4Girls meetup in Kigali, Rwanda, joined by an inspiring group of digital training peers from 30 countries across the continent.

Even for someone already working in the technology field, the meetup was an eye opener that brought valuable insights to my work. It was a great chance to foster networking with representatives like myself from organizations in different countries, all of us working on the promotion of digital skills for girls.

The event opened with a general session on the gender gap and technology, something YTF is very familiar with and constantly driving to address. We discussed barriers to equal opportunities in technology, such as access to devices and higher education, cultural stereotypes, self confidence in women, and the working environment. The conversation solidified my understanding that bridging the gender gap in technology is key to better jobs for women, quality education, and empowered political participation among others.

As the meet-up transitioned to smaller working groups, I had the privilege of being the resource person for a design thinking workshop in partnership with Christian Vanizette, co-founder of Makesense.org.

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The session was a practical learning experience, mixed with inspiring examples from my work with YTF. Integrating design thinking at YTF Academy in Kenya has always been my tactic in the trainings and workshops, and I love the chance to build on my work and get new ideas every time I train the girls. I shared my experiences as a Master Trainer with the eSkills4Girls group, describing projects accomplished through design thinking and how I use design thinking in my work.

It was encouraging to see how impressed the session attendees were with how I utilized design thinking to create projects that are helpful to society. I could tell my fellow attendees were motivated by our work at YTF, and they reported being ready to employ design thinking techniques back at their organizations.

Design thinking has always been my passion, so this event was a special treat for me. This process to strategically solve problems is powerful and helps bring ideas into realization, making sure the final product is appropriate and effective. I am proud to be a trainer at YTF and to share our work to help other organizations implement similar strategies. I can already see the ripple affect of what we do at YTF Academy Kenya – we’re motivating the girls, instilling in them a positive attitude and the right mindset to create satisfactory solutions to the problems of world.

Just as Nelson Mandela described education as “the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” I believe technology that encompasses design thinking can also make an incredible difference. Many girls or women that I encounter haven’t built the self-confidence to act on their ideas. And when they do act, we often see a process of attempts and failures that ultimately stop someone from being successful. Design thinking layers on a process that guides a person from an idea to a successful result, serving as a proven method to help bring more women into the fold of technology innovations.

I left the eSkills4Girls meet-up with new motivation. I am looking forward to having a technology hub equipped with 3D printers and open source technology hardware, not only in Nairobi but all over Kenya and eventually across the world. New ideas like a mobile wireless computer lab struck my mind while at the event, and I can’t wait to use my design thinking experience to create technology education solutions for the future.

YTF’s Njideka Harry Speaks at the World Economic Forum on Africa This Week

Harry Stands as Voice for Youth, Promoting Innovations to Achieve Equal Opportunities and Financial Inclusion

WEF_Image

This week, Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) President and CEO Njideka Harry represents the organization at the World Economic Forum on Africa, leading conversations on creating a skilled workforce, reducing inequalities, and facilitating financial inclusion in a digital world.

In Durban, South Africa, where the forum is being held, some of the top minds in business, government and civil society will focus on addressing challenges posed by growing youth unemployment and the impact of headwinds for commodity-dependent countries, among others. The conversations will be in a context of understanding how the region can strengthen economic resilience and create jobs – all as described by the World Economic Forum.

“We know it takes innovation from every angle,” said Harry. “We’re here because we want to not only learn from other organizations, but share what we’ve learned in our own work with stakeholders in the public and private sector.”

Starting May 3, Harry will serve as a subject matter expert for innovative approaches to decent work and responsible production, sharing YTF’s approach for supporting youth. With a focus on industry, innovation, and infrastructure, Harry will give insight to YTF’s program delivery and technology usage, urging the audience to consider ways to prepare youth with skills for jobs that don’t yet exist.

Later in the week, Harry will lead a discussion on reducing inequalities, taking a fresh look at policies that may help address underlying structures that create and reinforce unequal opportunities. She will also deliver comments to business leaders on financial inclusion, in particular discussing how digital technologies can drive opportunities. Armed with the knowledge that one-third of the one billion Africans who use mobile phones engage in commerce and make transactions with their devices, Harry will emphasize that digital technology has the potential to dramatically transform Africa.

Boldly Boosting Entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day

women entrepreneur workshop Nigeria mastercard presenter

MasterCard’s Tayo Adesina speaking to the women entrepreneurs about customer service segmentation.

When we go bold, we go big. While you saw us tweeting away on International Women’s Day, what you didn’t see was an eager group of women entrepreneurs gathered in Lagos, Nigeria, ready to learn. Our team partnered with generous employees from technology-related companies to mark International Women’s Day as a truly actionable occasion.

While all women are celebrated every year on March 8, it is in YTF’s DNA to celebrate women entrepreneurs in particular – mothers of the thousands of youth we serve. This workshop encouraged our women entrepreneurs in Nigeria to be resilient in spite of the economic change and recession. Sticking with the global theme of International Women’s Day, we aimed to #BeBoldForChange, taking actions towards gender parity.

Formula for Fast-Track Entrepreneur Building

The first day of the workshop brought together women entrepreneurs alongside a group of Mastercard and HP employees, in addition to representatives from the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN), a network of women entrepreneurs invited by the Center for International and Private Enterprise (CIPE).

This four-hour training and knowledge sharing session included building an action wall. Participants brainstormed what they would do to achieve gender equality if they were put in charge of their country. Ideas ranged from giving free vocational training to disadvantaged girls to opening doors for a female president.

The keynote address was delivered by Alexa Lion and Oladipo Ogunshire from the Mastercard team. They introduced Mastercard and shared their vision for “a world beyond cash,” explaining Mastercard uses technology to make payments safe, simple and smart.

Mastercard employee hugging woman enterpreneur

Mastercard’s Alexa Lion giving one of the women entrepreneurs, Charity Esezobor, a hug at the beginning of the workshop as part of an icebreaker.

Sessions throughout the day included:

  • Some practical dos and don’ts in a recession, presented by YTF staff.
  • The impact of e-payment for women entrepreneurs, presented by Uwa Uzebu and Kamil Olufowobi of Mastercard. They educated the women entrepreneurs on what e-payment can do for them as a businesswoman, saying that it can save lots of time and inconvenience.
  • A hands-on training on how to write a business plan, presented by Casmir Anyaegbu with YTF. The women were markedly happy to receive such a practical guide.
  • A focus on empowering women in small and medium businesses, presented by Joyce Onumere and Ruth Owolabi from HP. They introduced HP LIFE – an online business and IT training platform – and encouraged the women to take advantage of the platform to gain education on relevant topics and boost their businesses.

 

Finally, the entrepreneurs were instructed in customer service segmentation to help relate to each customer appropriately and offered ideas on creating customer loyalty by offering discounts and deals.

HP employee instructing women entrepreneurs

Joyce Onwumere of HP speaking to the women entrepreneurs

 

Entrepreneurs in Action: Visiting Aeesha Collections

The next afternoon, the YTF team accompanied the Mastercard crew for a tour of one entrepreneur’s business – Aeesha Collections. Owner Aishat manufactures shoes and has participated in YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs training in Lagos. She designs the shoes, puts them together using leather and rubber, and has a couple small machines to complete the product. Very few women in Nigeria do this type of work.

Woman entrepreneur shoemaker in Lagos, Nigeria

Aishat (left) giving a tour

The group met her seven employees – all male – at her workshop and spoke with Aishat about her business. After exploring her workshop, Aishat took the group to her showroom to show off some of her designs.

YTF introduced 3D printing to Aishat and has been working with her to explore the possibilities of 3D printing shoe soles and other materials of her shoes. The Mastercard team learned about this process from Aishat and considered ways in which working with YTF, they can advance this vision for Aishat and many other women entrepreneurs looking at ways to innovate within their product lines. 

Boldly Navigating the New Frontier

We believe Africa is the newest frontier for creating sustainable livelihoods through micro, small and medium enterprise development – especially for women at risk of vulnerable employment. That’s why our #BeBoldforChange idea for International Women’s Day was this event.

The opportunity to get Mastercard employees to donate their time and talent, diving in by touring a business of a woman entrepreneur we support and listening to her stories, challenges, and successes firsthand was the pivotal outcome of this two-day event. Forging connections between entrepreneurs and paths to success is a role we’re excited to play – whether that’s a piece of critical knowledge or a company willing to support small and medium business.

women entrepreneur hands

What I Learned about Women Empowerment from Working with YTF

Post by Narges Khoramshahi, Next Generation Leaders program

Since the day I walked through the doors of YTF’s Louisville headquarters in October 2016, I’ve been floored by how YTF works. Prior to joining the team, I had no idea how far-reaching and positive the impact of one organization could be.

I have the unique opportunity to embed with YTF for a year through the Next Generation Leaders program, digging deep to develop leadership skills that I can take back to my country. So far, I have been included in several talks with YTF country managers and have been incredibly inspired by how YTF leverages technology, often in places that an outsider might consider technology to be a luxury.

This exposure to emerging technologies has prompted me to integrate aspects of technology into my action plan for work back home, opening doors to become more effective.

Roots at Home and Branches Across the Ocean

I have learned that being an influential leader requires a clear understanding of the communities and people you want to work with and empower. A home base for YTF in Louisville, Kentucky, may seem strange at first, but once you get to know Njideka’s vision, experience and dedication – paired with a keen eye for the right partners and a capable team – it’s clear that no individual across the world is out of reach for YTF’s life-altering impacts.

At the same time, I’m learning that you can’t be indifferent about the community that surrounds you. Defining new projects in order to be a change agent and leader where you live is just as critical as reaching new continents. For instance, I am becoming familiar with various YTF programs such as 3D Printing Academy for Girls. While YTF’s 3D printing work started in countries like Nigeria and Kenya, this 3D printing program was recently brought home to Louisville. I have learned to appreciate the accessibility of the Louisville community and their welcoming attitude. I see a great potential for connection and collaboration.

The concept of community for YTF’s work extends beyond directly serving the people of Louisville. YTF also deeply values and benefits from partnerships and learning from their fellow changemaker organizations. YTF wants to be an active part of the nonprofit community in Louisville and as such is a member of Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNPE), based right here in Louisville. We participated in the CNPE annual conference last fall and saw the potential of the Louisville community – an inspiring reminder of the role YTF can play in this space. We especially loved the supportive atmosphere, agreeing with fellow attendees that an effort to be fair and patient with each other can pay dividends in all our work.

Want to Make a Big Impact? Make the Details Matter.

At YTF, every single appointment, phone call and visit matters. And each interaction and communication requires preparation and focus.

We evaluate ourselves before and after our meetings and calls. We try to determine what success looks like in any session. We prepare, have a plan and follow up to establish accountability to implement tasks and keep driving forward. We make it a goal to learn one thing from every meeting. It’s clear these small, organizational culture things matter and make a difference.

This may seem obvious to some, but it speaks volumes to YTF’s operating principles. How you approach your work and how you honor people’s values makes for stronger relationships and lasting, meaningful changes in the world.

Telling Our Story, Our Way

When I first met Njideka and heard the story of how she started and shaped YTF, I knew instantly I could learn a lot from her journey as a leader. As social entrepreneurs, Njideka and I co-wrote a piece in celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day last fall. Talking about our passion working with Iranian and Nigerian women is certainly close to our hearts. It’s been incredible to discover the enormous similarities between our communities when it comes to women. Even more, I’m finding through YTF the potential and the desire to break through all my limitations and to stand tall on their behalf.

I’ve been reminded time and again that empowering one woman is like empowering all women. I cherish the work that YTF does to provide opportunities for girls and women and I am honored to be part of it.