by Olufemi Omotayo (Director – AWP Network)
Nigerian girls are techies too!
Women in Technology in Nigeria (WITIN) provides networking, entrepreneurship, and professional development opportunities for women and girls.
WITIN educates, inspires and equips women and girls to pursue and keep careers in STEM while embracing the emerging tech market as inventors and innovators. WITIN’s most recent initiative, Tech 4D is an annual forum that explores current technological trends and needs of society.
The organization partnered with local schools such as Honeywell College, Vivian Fowler girls, International School Lagos, Princeton College Lagos, King David Model College, Our Lady of Nigeria Secondary School, Delta state; Mastermind College, and Doregos Private Academy.
Students designed mobile applications that tackled problems within their communities. Their solutions addressed issues like the calculation of electricity bills, entrepreneurship, fashion and style, career decisions, fitness and diet. Other mobile applications included tackling depression, safety and transportation, situation reporting, and shopping.
Last year’s winners represented Nigeria at Technovation 2013 and emerged top 10 globally, beating China, India and Jordan. The girls pitched their traffic app at the Twitter headquarters in California in May 2013. Hon (Mrs) Abike Dabiri-Erewa presented certificates to last year’s winners as well as this year’s participants.
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa spoke briefly on how technology makes an impact in the lives of young women. She spoke passionately about the missing 200+ school girls in Borno and the killings in Nyanya, Abuja. She charged women to come together and get more involved in governance.
“We need a Nigeria that will give girls a future. We need mothers who believe in the progress and security of our children.”
Mrs Nkemdilim Begho, MD Futuresoft gave a brief presentation encouraging girls to pursue a degree in STEM fields.
Susan Schorr from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) talked about empowering more women to embrace technology. Vicky Sleight spoke on the benefit of being part of her organisation, the GSMA; while Rachel Thomas, the president of Lean In Foundation talked about how people can form ‘lean in’ circles.
Girls gave their project presentations in the morning session. The women gathered in the afternoon to explore how to make better use of technology. Mrs. Iyabo Funmilola Osifeso, Permanent Secretary at the Lagos State Education District VI waited after performing her ‘motherly’ role in the morning and was an active participant in the afternoon session. Ms. Chioma Okoli, Head, Google Apps Enterprise, Upperlink Limited and Ms Odukoya of MTN Nigeria took participants in different practical tech sessions.
Mrs Martha Alade, WITIN Chairperson/Founder, also emphasised on the myriad of opportunities technology offers. In a brief conversation with the AWP Network, she said, “we should have rewarded the girls for the apps they’ve created but we could not get the needed support, despite writing to many organisations.”
“Yet, we should be happy because the event is a huge success,” she said.
The event could yet be described by how Mrs Begho concluded her presentation.
She quoted Ray Bradbury:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”