Paying it forward: TechWomen Impact Back Home in Kenya.

By September 6, 2019Uncategorized

Our journey began with our selection for the TechWomen program in mid 2014. The experience was life changing. We were exposed to a wealth of ideas and resources through the TechWomen community; professional and cultural mentors who guided our experience.

Going back home, Kenya, one thing was clear to us – we needed to pay it forward; a concept that was widely advocated during our mentorship. We kicked off our work in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya. Ingrained biases are more prominent in the coast, and girls are less encouraged to take up STEM subjects. Through a tweet in December 2014, we were introduced to Ruth Kaveke and Aisha Abubakar; friends and classmates, who were at the time studying computer science. They ran the women’s arm of an existing organization that was trying to get more local residents in Mombasa into technology. We jointly planned and hosted the first Women In STEM workshop in Mombasa in January 2015.

Recognizing the immediate synergy we had, we held multiple meetings to develop a creative strategy that would get more high school girls from Mombasa into STEM. We submitted our concept; ‘Mombasa Girls In STEM Solve IT’ to the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) and became the first team from Kenya to ever win the competition in 2015. The project’s winning idea developed a dynamic STEM curriculum which used our experiences from TechWomen and our professional expertise. This would be taught to trainers (young, local women and men) who would deliver the content to 150 high school girls in 10 schools in Mombasa. The girls would be placed into teams and tasked with identifying a community problem they want to solve and apply the curriculum’s content in developing a solution. Each solution would be presented at the first ever Girls In STEM Fair in Mombasa. The project was an overwhelming success! 180 high school girls from 11 schools developed 33 STEM solutions in 2016.

By now, Ruth and Aisha, had formed Pwani Teknowgalz; their own women led organization that was carrying out training and outreach on technology. In 2017, we became the first Kenyan team to twice win the AEIF. This time around, we trained 199 high school girls from 13 high schools and held the second Girls In STEM Fair in September 2018.

Through the projects, we have forged partnerships and most importantly, indelible friendships. Teachers like Linah Anyango who provided remarkable leadership during our projects have gone ahead to play major roles in advancing technology in their schools through Technovation Mombasa and Africa Code Week. Ruth and Aisha; whom we mentored, have become well known leaders in the local community; spearheading several initiatives in Kenya. We’ve currently partnered with them to run a ‘STEM Cafe’ in 5 towns in Kenya at the U.S Embassy’s American Spaces. We couldn’t be prouder that Ruth, Aisha and Linah are now part of our larger TechWomen family.

Our trainers; mostly university students and recent graduates have gained additional skills courtesy of the dynamic STEM curriculum and they in turn have trained other students. Thanks to this exposure, they obtained employment or internships as software engineers, science teachers and many more through our networks.

Our mentees have become our peers and our alumni students have now become trainers in Pwani Teknowgalz who are empowering the next generation of women in STEM.

Through Mombasa Girls In STEM, STEM Cafe, Technovation and several other initiatives in Mombasa, Kilifi and beyond, we have reached more young women than we could have imagined. So to our TechWomen mentors – to Anar Simpson, Tanya Kobyluk, Queen Denchukwu, Nashilu Mouen-Makoua, Prachi Gupta, Julia lovin, Mimi Hills, Larissa Shapiro, Alfreda Eghan and countless more who had a part to play in our journey, know that there’s a whole generation of women, whom though you have never met, are thankful to you.

When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. – Michelle Obama

Umikaltuma Ibrahim – TW14

Sandra Kambo – TW14

Serah Kahiu – TW14

Adah Waseka – TW14

Connect with us

Twitter: @techwomenkenya @pwaniteknowgalz

Website: www.mombasagirlsinstem.com

YouTube: Mombasa Girls in STEM

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