Change Agent Awards Panel – sponsored by Google

This posts are part of a series of official blog posts I am doing for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. You will find them cross-posted here.

Below are my impressions from the Change Agents Awards Panel for GHC09, and after that are the official bios of these incredible women.

Africa seems both very near and very far away on days like these. I spent my summer working for clients, survivors of human rights abuses, many of who grew up in Africa. I’ve used Google Maps to trace the Niger, seen tiny towns like the ones Human Rights USA‘s clients grew up in, felt connected.

Reading all of these posters and listening to all of these presentations about high technology, it feels easy to forget how deep and cavernous the digital divide is. Each of these change agents are working to give women in their communities access to the most basic staples of computing. Some of these three women were working to foster entrepreneurship, some seeking to teach basic skills, all suffering from a lack of funding.

That was my biggest takeaway: funding these women is a safe-bet to helping women access technology.

Please go here to donate to NairoBits.

Here to donate to the Networking for Success project.

[I was unable to find online presences for any other projects listed below. If you know of them, please comment]

Just reading through their bios gives me tingles–and seeing them in person was inspiring.

Oreoluwa Somolu, founder of Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre is passionate about empowering women/girls of Nigeria through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as well as encouraging them to take up technology careers. Her initiatives include the Networking for Success project, where women were trained to use web 2.0 tools to facilitate knowledge gathering and sharing in their work; the Girls Technology Camp, which exposed high school girls to the relevance of ICTs to academic and professional pursuits; her collaboration with Fahamu to organize Blogs for African Women and BAWO, a blog mentoring initiative for African girls.

Halima Ibrahim’s initiative the Mu’assassatul Mar’aatus Saliha Women’s Skill Acquisition Centre is one of the biggest initiatives to emerge from the Community Technology Skills Program in Nigeria over the last three years. It has empowered over a 1000 women in ICT and Handcraft skills while fostering local innovation and creating jobs and opportunities for people. These women have been motivated and equipped with knowledge that has made them financially stable and independent while working from their homes where they are often in seclusion. The rate of divorce among this group of women has reduced due to the economic empowerment of women because they are perceived to have more value in their homes.

Anne Ikiara-Kabaara is the General Manager of Nairobits Trust, an organization dealing with youth/women empowerment through ICT in the non-formal settlements of Nairobi. Anne is devoted to helping others to get further in their lives. Nairobits has a vision of giving youth technical, social and entrepreneurship skills to enable them to positively change the circumstances. Though Nairobits deals with both genders, they take extra effort and affirmative action to engage the girls. They have been successful in getting jobs for 1,500 underprivileged girls/women.

Inspirational Quote:

… It is the desert’s grimness, its stillness and isolation, that bring us back to love. Here we discover the paradox of the contemplative life, that the desert of solitude can be the school where we learn to love others.–Kathleen Norris

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