Women Who Reign: Chepkemoi Magdaline
Happy Saturday, Reigners! Are you looking for a little weekend inspiration? Check out Chepkemoi Magdaline’s amazing story! We love that she listened to her inner voice and pursued her dreams, dreams that her family couldn’t imagine a girl achieving. Read on to learn more and follow Chepkemoi on Facebook! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
When I mentioned to my relatives after getting good grades in high school that I intended to take a degree course in Computer Science, they discouraged me with all sorts of theories surrounding girls and STEM careers. It even lead them to organize a meeting where I was given only two option: either take a degree course in Education or nursing. They said those are the only courses which are “women friendly.” I tried explaining to them, in an effort to make them understand, and it fell on deaf ears. It was quite a challenge for me, since I was very young, but still I decided to go for what I wanted. My family learned later that I did not heed their advice after graduating with a first class honors in Computer Science, and they congratulated me.
I grew up in the rural setting where sometimes there are challenges facing a girl child. I saw girls who excelled in high school being married off to old men, some as a second, third or fourth wife. Children aged 12 getting married were denied access to education. I was very lucky to come from a family where my parents gave me an education, but some of the girls I grew up with did not have the same opportunity as me and that is the type of girl I want to help, by empowering them with skills through mentorship, linking them to opportunities, and encouraging them to excel in all educational aspects.
I have over 4 years experience working as a Network Management System Engineer, Carrier Service Delivery officer, Software developer and while working for Orange Kenya I contributed in setting up part of their fiber optics network and implementing the GMPLS technology on the network.
With a Bachelor
of Science Degree in Computer Science and a Master of Science in Mobile Telecommunication and Innovation, I am a technical person who has a passion for community work and using technology to solve the challenges we have in Africa through research. I believe technology is one of the tools which hold the ability to solve problems in transport, access to water, electricity, education, and more. I was selected in 2015 as women entrepreneurship day, youth ambassador for Kenya, where I organize different events and programs aimed at promoting women entrepreneurs.
Bridging Gender Gap in Tech
In an effort to encourage more girls to study STEM and more women to positively use
technology to improve their lives, we came up with a platform to train women and girls in rural areas on technology. I am the co-founder and director of operations (www.techstarlets.org). This program has created an impact among girls and women in rural areas. Technology affects all aspects of our lives and as the world goes digital we need women and girls to be part of the technology space. We need them to come up with solution to the problems we have using technology.
I am an upcoming tech entrepreneur. From the time I was still at the university, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and a tech entrepreneur. I started different projects after school and even registered a company but failed. We have so many problems which needs technical solutions. I decided to work on an application to help parents from Nairobi to share the responsibility of taking their children to school. It’s called TwendeShule. I am also part of a team which came up with a digital platform (PinAfya) for easy management of diabetes, which won 2015 Sead Duke Health hackathon. I believe we can use technology entrepreneurship to transform Africa, create social change, and make money.
One of my goals is to be a community leader who champions the empowering women and girls on technology and to motivate youth to solve the problems we have, create employment, bring change and earn a living.
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
My favorite website are ihub.co.ke and ilabafrica.ac.ke because it is through these sites that I get to know what is going on in tech locally. I like keepass for my digital security, Git/Github, ODK Collect and XLSForm authoring tools.
Someone who inspires Chepkemoi and knowledge they have imparted:
My dad, Samwel Towett inspires me so much. Even though he did not get a chance to further his studies, he worked so hard, and he became an entrepreneur. The fact that he gave every child in our family an opportunity to go to school is so inspiring. I gained a lot of entrepreneurial skills through him.
Song that makes Chepkemoi want to dance:
“Break the Chain” (a song produced by Eve Ensler and V-Day, directed by Tony Stroebel, written and produced by Tena Clark with music by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz, and featuring dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen.)
A challenge Chepkemoi faced and how she overcame it:
Even though progress have been made to address the equality issues, a lot needs to be done. In my community girls are still being married off, and some get married at an early age. The society determines the career path of a woman and girls. For instance when I mentioned to my relatives that I plan on pursuing a degree in Computer Science, they discouraged me with all the theories and misconceptions surrounding girls and sciences. I realized there was a issue with girls and technology and, through research, I learned that the issue was global. This led us to come up with a platform Techstarlets Kenya techstarlets.org to link girls to opportunities. We also train girls on programming skills and we train women on technology, including how they can use it to advance their businesses, farming and get information on issues affecting them.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
I will train them on what I know best, technology, so they can use it to access information on issues affecting them. Accessing information on how to utilize good farming practices and be able to use different applications which addresses their issues is important.
I will also encourage more girls to go for what they want and let no one tell them they cannot because they are girls. If they want to pursue STEM careers then they should go for it!