L-r: Education Programs Manager, Tech4Dev, Peace Odili, Most Committed Participant in Ekiti State, Adaeze Timilehin, Most Committed participant, Ondo State, Ngozi Aduloju, Nigerian Women Techsters (NWT) Advisory Board member, Dr. Ronke Thompson, and Communications Lead, Tech4dev, Laide Ajanaku, at the closing ceremony of the Microsoft YouthSpark programme held at the Curators Hub, Akure, Ondo State

In a bid to bridge the gender divide in the tech ecosystem in Nigeria and to empower women to be self-dependent and become leaders in tech, Tech4dev, with Microsoft’s backing, has successfully trained over 400 women coders from the Nigerian Women Techsters’ first cohort of training.

Tech4dev is a non-profit social enterprise that seeks to create proactive and reactive technological solutions to help solve the world’s greatest problems, with primary focus on education, public health and civic engagement, backed by Microsoft, came up with the Nigerian Women Techsters (NWT), an initiative that is aimed at helping young women between the ages of 18-40 get the training and support needed to acquire coding skills.

Training in the first cohort began on November 11 in Ondo State and subsequently in Ekiti and Oyo States. The women were trained in the three training tracks of Web and Mobile Applications Development, Embedded Systems and Games Development as well as an online business training module. The training which lasted 12 weeks has seen to the birth of over 400 women coders.

On Saturday, March 3, 2018, to mark the International Women’s Day themed #PressforProgress and #MakeWhatsNext, the women, who had undergone training under the Nigerian Women Techsters Initiative were graduated at the Curator’s Hub. This event, powered by Microsoft, featured Keynote addresses from Kitan Aboluwarin, Project Lead, SeedDev and Dr. Ronke Thompson, Member, NWT Advisory Board and Lecturer, Computer Science Department, Federal University of Technology, Akure. Both speakers stressed the importance of creating an enabling environment for women to thrive in the tech ecosystem. While Aboluwarin admonished the participants to never get too comfortable but to constantly seek knowledge, Thompson encouraged beneficiaries of the programme to think themselves activists for other women henceforth by pressing for improved conditions and access to development training.

Olusola Amusan, Philanthropy Lead at Microsoft Nigeria reiterated that Microsoft believes that empowering women in STEM fields drives economic growth, equality and innovation. “We want to create a culture where more women are attracted to the STEM fields and believe in themselves as having a career path in the technology industry. Despite the stats, a new generation of ‘girl geeks’ are making a real mark on the technology sector and propelling the economic growth of their countries forward, like Senegalese, Mariéme Jamme, CEO of IT organisation, SpotOne. We need more female leaders like this. It is hard enough to navigate a career path without a mentor, particularly without female mentors in STEM that can act as ambassadors for young women,” he said.

Speaking on her experience as a participant, Ngozi Aduloju, 40-year-old mother of four said “For me, the Games Development class has not only impacted my life but has set a lot of things in motion for my future and that of my generation. I have a 13-year-old son who picked up interest in my classes, we became a team; studying and watching online tutorials together. I now have an understanding of what it takes to make a game and have become more appreciative of what it takes to conceptualise a game that can actually keep me interested. I also totally agree that educating a woman implies educating a nation because my kids have developed some interest in coding and they share this interest with their friends too. That way, we keep spreading the attitude.”

The graduating participants presented their team projects, pointing out their relevance to sustainable development in their communities; from games that can help sensitise the public on Lassa fever, devices that are useful in smart farming, an application that allows people to donate used books, etc.

While speaking at the event, Peace Odili, Education Programmes Manager, Tech4dev, said, “The project is set for a period of three years during which Tech4Dev as well as other supporting agencies intend to take the programme to other African counties thereby giving African women an opportunity to develop themselves.”

Speaking further, she said, “This vision is what is taking us to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in New York. We hope to be able to meet with people from other nations who are passionate about leveraging ICT to better the lot of women in their communities and share our ultimate goal with them.”