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.

“SCRATCH”-ing the Code World

Brenda Wangwe-Kilonzo writes for YTF Kenya and is based in Nairobi. She wrote this based on her experience at Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy.

The energy is infectious. I am not very sure there are many better ways of unwinding than sitting in the midst of excited 10 year olds. It’s all hands raised, fingers snapping and near-desperate calls on the tutor – everyone seems to have that special answer he is looking for.

 “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

G.K. Chesterton

I’m at Youth for Technology Foundation’s (YTF) Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy; teaching ages 9-11 to code using a software package called Scratch.

“This is an entry point to the more advanced coding,” said Wanyumu Ibuka, YTF’s program coordinator. “It comes with pre-set icons which can help children program their own interactive stories, animations, and games.”

Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively – essential skills for life in the 21st century.

“With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability,” said Fred Swaniker, founder and CEO of African Leadership Academy. A view that YTF concurs with.

Daniel code ytf scratch

This is even an issue U.S. President Obama has weighed on. In 2015 at the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, Obama explained: “Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.  Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers. With hundreds of millions of mobile phones and surging access to the Internet, Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity,” US President Barack Obama has said.

So YTF is reaching out to empower Kenya’s youth population to help narrow social and economic disparities through one simple concept: access to information. The information we expose youth to creates economic opportunities and the ability to compete globally.

Back to the refreshing moments at Winka Academy’s Africa Code Week. Like many successful teachers, we want to hear out our students. “Who goes first?” I ask. Daniel shoots up his hand.

Daniel YTF youth code scratch

Daniel is keen on being part of Kenya’s technological future tapestry. The 10 year old second-last born of five siblings says when he is not outside playing soccer with his friends or doing his chores at home, he is usually on the on the computer. “I use my older sister’s computer to play action games, and to talk with my friends over Skype and Whatsapp – just finding out how they are or checking whether they have finished their homework.”

He loves machines and would like to be an engineer when he grows up. Daniel says he has enjoyed the Scratch week and hopes the coding he has just started with YTF would enable him achieve his passion – using the computer to make educative games for children. “I want them not to get HIV and to know have to make good use of the soil,” he asserts.

Eighteenth century writer Alfred Mercier said: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”YTF takes this to heart, aiming for plenty of fun at Africa Code Weeks to help launch the next Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Dell – right here in Kenya.

 

Two Girls, Two Countries, One Thread: Hope for the Future

Precious_2

Nzambi is 13 and lives in Kenya. Precious, 17, lives in Nigeria. Both girls count YTF’s flagship program – YTF Academy – as their opportunity to not only hone in on their future aspirations, but build a path to reach them confidently.

YTF Academy is uniquely positioned to help youth eliminate a life lived in poverty – often aiming for things they didn’t know were possible. The program operates with a curriculum based on principles and flexes to meet the needs of differing populations and circumstances.

Attitude is first. YTF Academy students are taught to dream. They are guided to tackle issues with a can-do attitude and encouraged to participate actively in the learning process.

Within this empowering context, students are taught to be both innovative and effective. Things like creativity and critical thinking top the list of skills students should walk away with upon graduation.

Health Issue Turns Into Inspiration

Nzambi

Nzambi is recovering from an infection that started after an ordeal that left her with multiple fractures on her left leg. She can’t play much, but notes her favorite subjects are science and Kiswahili – which she loves to speak.

In the course of her treatment she had to be admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital for eight months. It is here that she noted the inefficiencies that plague a well-meaning workforce. In particular, she recalls Kenya’s biggest referral hospital having its reception area crammed with patients needing emergency attention.

“I would like to use the computer to come up with systems that would see to it that patients are attended to quickly and appropriately.”

She explains that as much as she likes the computer, she does not get to spend much time on it at home. When she does get a minute, she listens to her favorite musicians. She was particularly pleased to spend extra time at a computer and learn to code “Scratch” during the coding week at with YTF.

Besides a technology solution to facilitate faster admissions and attention in hospitals, Nzambi wants to learn how to use technology to establish easier ways of recording and sharing music videos.

On becoming a producer with 3D printing

precious

Proud graduate of YTF Academy, Precious holds up her certificate.

Young people in Africa make up nearly 40 percent of today’s working-age population, yet 60 percent are unemployed. Looking to the future, the World Bank estimates that some 11 million youth will enter Africa’s labor market every year for the next decade. 

Precious is a secondary school graduate awaiting admission into university to study nursing. Since enrolling in YTF Academy, Precious has learned to use Autodesk Fusion360 to design and model 3D printed items. Some of her product designs are proudly displayed on Thingiverse. 

Precious3

Precious, far left, learning from 3D printing teacher Donatus, middle, about the steps necessary to design 3D printed products.

A mismatch exists between the African education system and the jobs in a knowledge-based economy. Too many young graduates are earning degrees only to find that they are not qualified for lucrative employment opportunities, largely due to the lack of basic, technical and transferable skills.

YTF Academy is changing that by providing youth with marketable skills so that they have choices; as enthusiastic employees or as job creators themselves. 

“Being a student of YTF Academy and learning about 3D printing technology has taught me that as a  young entrepreneur, I can meet my communities needs without depending on any producer or supplier,” Precious explained. “Having these skills will enable me to continue to be relevant in the global marketplace. Maybe one day I will be able to 3D print medical devices and other parts.”

Looking Back at the Year That Was

Dear Friend,

As 2016 comes to a close, I am truly amazed and humbled by the great work we are accomplishing together. We have spent the last 15 years working to empower youth and women living in the developing world and low-income communities by providing them with the technology to achieve life-changing results in education and entrepreneurship. 

  • With your support, YTF doubled our investment in monitoring and evaluation for impact. We know that a major threat for economic development and global stability, particularly in Africa, is the mismatch between skills demanded by the private sector and those that the workforce can supply. A 2014 study by PWC stated that 96 percent of CEOs in Africa, compared to a global average of 63 percent, are concerned about the lack of skills. YTF Academy is designed to bridge that gap. We are especially proud to share Deborah’s experience as an intern while enrolled in YTF Academy. In 2017, we plan to unveil our recommended solutions on the skills gap conundrum to address youth unemployment. You’ll want to stay tuned.   
  • With your support, YTF continued to develop programs in partnership with private sector companies that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses. This work wouldn’t be complete without providing entrepreneurial education in the form of business skills, technology acumen and financial literacy alongside mentoring and networking. Afoma, one of our program participants, introduced e-payments into her business, “Hair Wizard and Spa.” She now employs over 30 people in her business and is a role model for other young women and aspiring entrepreneurs in her community. 
  • With your support, YTF test-launched 3D Printing Academy for Girls in Kentucky, with hopes of fully expanding the program in the U.S. market in 2017. In West Louisville, where YTF’s offices are located, the likelihood of youth participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields is lower than other students enrolled in area public schools.
  • With your support, YTF made a Commitment to Action at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York this September. Our commitment is around education and entrepreneurship, specifically using technology for at-risk girls in Nigeria. You can learn more about the exciting commitment in the press release here. (Plus see the photo below!)

Your support makes it possible for YTF to continue to transform lives, every day. Please consider making your year-end gift today. Every gift is one step closer to helping us make the most impact in countries where we work.    

donate

On behalf of everyone here at YTF and the youth and women who are at the center of our work, I wish you and your family a prosperous and peaceful new year.

To Impact,

NHarry_DigitalSignature

YTF Njideka Harry with girls who will benefit from CGI Commitment to Action

YTF’s President and CEO, Njideka Harry, pictured with girls from the Obi-Orodo community in Nigeria where YTF is implementing its Clinton Global Initiative commitment to action. Between 2017 and 2019, YTF is committing to providing education and technology skills to 6,000 girls at risk of human-trafficking across Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

Five Easy Ways to Help YTF This Month

With pride in our work and gratitude in our hearts, here are a handful of ideas of how you can to help us keep driving our mission forward. (Need a refresher on our work? Here’s what we’re all about.)

1. Shop with AmazonSmile 

We know you’re online buying last-minute gifts. No? How about splurging online with your holiday bonus? We feel ya. Just know that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible  purchases to Youth For Technology Foundation whenever you shop on AmazonSmile, so click the link and continue shopping. Easy.

2. Share your tech equipment

Did you know YTF accepts donations of working technology equipment? We’re looking for desktop computers (monitors and CPUs), laptops, printers, photocopiers, overhead projectors, digital cameras and video recorders. In particular, we are always in need of Pentium IV desktops and higher, as well as laptops.

We’re not saying to poke around your great aunt’s basement during your holiday celebrations, but if you happen to find an unused piece of equipment in good working order, we certainly won’t say no.

3. Become a brand ambassador at your company (& match donations!)

We know many companies run workplace giving campaigns encouraging their employees to donate to a nonprofit of choice. This is one way to not only make a financial contribution to YTF, but also to be an ambassador for YTF in the company.

4. Show off your fundraising skills

Did you accidently make a couple dozen extra cookies this holiday season? Have one too many holiday parties on your calendar? Follow the lead of these 2 young sisters in the U.K., who wrote to YTF about a bake sale they were hosting to benefit YTF. So sweet!

5. Remember YTF in your year-end giving.

Did you take on the challenge in #4? Awesome. Is “helping make a positive change in the world” on your New Year’s resolution list? Even better. Donating to YTF is super easy and super satisfying, especially after reading about the people in our community who get a boost up in life, with your help.

Across Africa, A New Generation of Female Entrepreneurs Are Taking Control of Their Lives

Thousands of women entrepreneurs, like Ms. Afoma, benefit from YTF’s programs.

In May 2016, in partnership with and support from MasterCard, YTF told the story of Ms. Afoma at the World Economic Forum in Kigali. She owns Hair Wizard and only 12 years ago she said had “zero money in her pocket.” Today, she is a vibrant entrepreneur having employed over 30 people in her salon.

Ms. Afoma participated in YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs Mobile Value Added Services (NWEMVAS). Since the program’s beginning in 2012, YTF has implemented over 1,200 business skills and financial capabilities workshops to 10,823 women entrepreneurs who created approximately 1,050 jobs, began 180 new businesses within the first six months after participation, expanded 450 businesses within the first six months, and generated $6.2 million in new revenue.

YTF trained an additional 1,600 women entrepreneurs in 2016 and is on schedule to train 350 women entrepreneurs and 150 of their female employees in 2017. YTF has added training for female employees of women entrepreneurs since their education levels and employability skills are extremely low. With training, women entrepreneurs are able to guide them in their educational and employability skill attainment. 

YTF Joins A4AI with Statement: Internet Access Should Be a Basic Human Right

YTF became a member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), initiative of the World Wide Web Foundation. YTF is on the A4AI Advisory Council and has made a 2017 commitment to meet A4AI’s gender equity #TechWomenAfrica goals.

Youth for Technology Foundation A4AAI

From left: Njideka Harry (YTF), Sonia Jorge (A4AI), Dorothy Gordon (Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT) and Anne Shongwe (UN Women)

#TechWomenAfrica calls for a gender-responsive policy to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Leaders representing nearly 30 countries gathered in Accra on September 13-14 for the inaugural Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology. The summit explored policy solutions to address the digital gender gap in Africa, with specific focus on four areas: affordable broadband, women’s rights online, digital education and skills, and digital entrepreneurship.

YTF made the following commitments after the summit.

Commitment to Digital Skills and Education

Finding:  For women who were not online, not knowing how to use the Internet was the most commonly-cited barrier. Yet, the countries assessed are making painfully slow progress on providing digital literacy training and Internet access in public schools.

  • Train 250 local African teachers on how to use the Internet, how to use the Internet for instructional purposes, and how to increase students’ ICT skills.
  • Train 1,500 African women entrepreneurs how to use the Internet and how to use the Internet for business-building purposes, including access to/use of mobile financial services.
  • Train 500 female employees of women entrepreneurs how to use the Internet for online communication and marketing purposes to support the development of the women entrepreneurs’ business and to gain greater employable skills of their own, including access to/use of mobile financial services.
  • Follow-up with SMS messaging to encourage trainee use of the Internet.

Commitment to Relevant Content and Services

Finding: Ensure what women find online is relevant and empowering. Two key areas identified were (1) reproductive and sexual health and (2) access to mobile financial services.

  • Train 1,500 women entrepreneurs and 500 of their female employees how to use mobile value added services to grow their businesses.
  • Follow-up with SMS education/business messaging to encourage trainee’s use of the Internet.

 

Starting at 1:32 in this video, Njideka shares her views on changing the paradigm from technology users to innovators.

Youth for Technology Foundation TechWomen_Accra

YTF’s President & CEO, Njideka Harry delivering her remarks on the “Digital Education and Skills” panel at the conference.

 

Making the World Better, Via West Louisville: Irena’s Story

Irena1b

“Engineers try to make the world better and they want to see the world better,” 12 year old Irena explained. At YTF, we 100% agree. Nearly all of the girls that walk through our doors say they want to make the world better. So, what’s stopping them?

Research shows that adolescent girls disengage from science and math during their middle school years, although their interest is very strong.  Girls frequently do not have exposure to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics, related careers, or know women working in STEM fields.

Irena_2

YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls was created in 2016 to provide STEM inspiration for girls in Kentucky through making, inventing, and designing the world that they envision for themselves. Not only are they introduced to all things 3D printing, but they have opportunities to be mentored by women in technology and engineering.  

The students are exposed to design thinking with 3D printing, programming basics (using tools like Ozoblockly), and electronics (raspberry pi and Arduino). All this while being introduced to a comprehensive, industry applicable program taught using the Socratic method answering their own questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.

Irena_1

Disengaging from STEM during adolescent years can be reversed by providing enrichment opportunities, hands-on learning, problem-based learning, exposure to women in STEM fields, seeing the practical impact for solving real-life needs, and mentorship from female experts in computer science and engineering.

YTF launched 3D Printing Academy for Girls strategically in West Louisville, where the a huge majority of youth (83 percent) live in poverty. Residents in the area African American (63 percent), Caucasian (37 percent), and Latino (one percent). The likelihood of participation in STEM fields is lower in West Louisville than for other students in the local school system (Jefferson County Public Schools).

Help someone like Irena get a brighter future: donate

 

Hear from an Iranian Entrepreneur, Who Is Embedded with YTF for the Year

Narges Khoramshahi1We spoke with Narges Khoramshahi, who is currently embedded in our Louisville YTF headquarters for a year. She’s part of the Next Generation Leaders program, in collaboration with Arizona State University. The program selects professionals in their early or mid-career to spend one year in one of the leading nonprofits in United States and learn from best practices.

YTF: We love your story – it’s clear why you were chosen as an emerging leader! Tell us how you got to where you are.

Narges: Back home, I was teaching entrepreneurship. This teaching experience made me realize students are very enthusiastic and talented, and there is this potential in them. I was totally blinded by questions they asked when I first started teaching, and I quickly realized I wanted to become a mentor. I started collaborating with a foundation and made programs to help students progress.

I found that even though Iranian youth were enthusiastic, they were also disappointed. They couldn’t nail down next steps to reach their goals. They needed motivation to give them confidence, so we provided workshops to go start own business or start in the workforce.

One thing led to another, and I became a social entrepreneur, participating in different projects related to youth and women and empowerment. In particular, we know women entrepreneurs have a wide range of people they influence. My action plan is based on having female entrepreneurship clubs and centers in different universities.

In the end, I found teaching to be the most inspiring part of my background. I already had a masters in entrepreneurship. When everything came together, I discovered I wanted to learn more about social entrepreneurship.

YTF: What are you doing in particular with YTF?

Narges: I’m here to learn and to share my story. I’m listening to YTF stories, and I am coming to know that this is a path that I can follow.

I see similarities with Nigeria and Kenya and my country in that there are a large number of youth and great potential. I’m motivated by an understanding that we have to provide students with the right research and consulting. They are willing to do everything to be better students or to be better parents. The potential is there, as I see it. I just need to find the proper collaboration between government, private institutions and universities.

Ultimately, I’m glad I’m with YTF. When I saw how far you have come, I was inspired. I’m inspired to go back and do things right.

YTF: So what’s the most different with how we work here?

Narges: Everyone here is really forward and on board with new ideas and new models. Back home it’s harder. Iran has been an isolated country – they are not open to receiving what an international organization could do for us. So the global collaboration is certainly different there. A U.S. nonprofit like YTF could work in Nigeria, but in Iran, that’s not possible. We are still learning to open our doors to our global community.

People do see collaboration as a good thing, but it’s just the environment that typically stops it. The youth are enthusiastic. They want to do something, but they’re not allocating resources to help. And investors aren’t willing to invest in nonprofits.

I encourage any Iranian student to go for higher education in European countries or the U.S. or Canada to get a global connection. I especially want people in those countries to meet Iranian youth, to create that connection, and to see that Iranians are different than what’s expected.

YTF: One last question – what’s one thing you admire about YTF?

Narges: I really like that YTF stands by their values. They aren’t trying to just collaborate with anybody. They want to do more – something influential.

If doing something is really going to help the youth to have a better standard of life or gain good experience, they would go for it. From Latin America to Louisville, YTF has the vision to provide opportunities for every youth. Not only African countries.

They “believe talent is universal,” as [YTF President] Njideka always says. They really want youth in so many different countries to have equal opportunities.