#SheTransformsTech: Meet 7 Women Leaders Harnessing Tech for Good
by Lisa K. Anderson for World Pulse
These seven leaders from five countries are using tech to drive change in their communities.
Amid a global pandemic, sociopolitical crises, and digital divides deepened by inequalities, women leaders worldwide are transforming technology in powerful ways.
They’re breaking through barriers that once prevented women from learning digital skills. They’re creating support systems to flourish in STEM fields dominated by men. And they’re giving the next generation of girls the training and tools they need to reimagine the future.
From expanding tech accessibility to driving online activism, from connecting women with STEM mentors to training girls how to code, these are just some of the inspiring World Pulse leaders harnessing technology for good.
Mentorship made all the difference for her. Now, she connects women and girls across Africa with STEM mentors.
Amanda Obidike jumped from one unfulfilling job to the next after graduating college. She was depressed and worried about gaining technical skills and experience to land a better job in Nigeria.
In 2018, an IBM data science training and mentorship program transformed her career. “I started looking at how I could help young people like me who didn’t have these skills,” she says.
Today Amanda runs STEMi Makers Africa, an organization that strives to boost employment, innovation, and inclusion in STEM pathways. Her goal is to reach two million young people across 17 Sub-Saharan African countries by 2030.
One of Amanda’s initiatives is Project Kuongoza, the Swahili word for leading. Mentors help women and girls find their STEM paths through virtual meetings, resource sharing, and entrepreneurial advice. As of early 2021, the project has impacted more than 1,500 people.
“There are quite a lot of communities where women and girls are afraid to dream, excel, and share what they want to be,” Amanda says. “It’s about giving them the encouragement and support they need.”
Support her work: Amanda seeks women STEM mentors to share their stories, expertise, and resources. Connect with Amanda on World Pulse.
In the U.K., this journalist hosts a digital space for women to empower, inspire, and impact the world.
Shameela Yoosuf Ali worked at magazines for many years but never found the platform she needed. “I always had this passion for empowering women and telling their stories,” she says.
As she navigated living outside of her home country of Sri Lanka, Shameela launched an independent, nonprofit magazine called FemAsia in 2018. “I was sitting in my room doing all this work,” Shameela says. “Now the world has come to my room.”
Sometimes women don’t have the space to express what they feel, but technology gives them that outlet, she says. FemAsia provided Shameela comfort and community as she navigated COVID-19 with a new baby and spouse who works in healthcare.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from and what your background is,” Shameela says. “You can learn digital tools to empower yourself and others.”
Shameela remembers when she did not know how to access the internet in 2006. Today she oversees a digital magazine that reaches more than 30,000 people, with dreams of someday reaching 100,000.
Support her work: To make FemAsia more sustainable and pay contributors, Shameela is developing a donate button on the website. Connect with Shameela on World Pulse.
This Bangladeshi engineer was the only woman in her class. Now she empowers women to code, find jobs, and become financially strong.
When Achia Nila arrived at university, she was the only woman studying computer science. As she entered the workforce, she once again was the only woman in the engineering department.
“Engineering life is not easy for women,” Achia says. “I decided if I was going to do something in my life, it would be making a platform for women in tech.”
Since 2013, Achia has trained close to 10,000 Bangladeshi women in tech and connected 7,000 women to work opportunities through her organization Women in Digital and her agency Lumina Development. She works at the rural, urban, and international levels.
To Achia, women’s empowerment and financial empowerment go hand in hand. Her organization and agency help women build technology skills, specialize in a field, and gain financial independence.
“Thousands of the women and girls we have trained have not only started jobs or online businesses but significantly changed deep-rooted social and gender norms in Bangladesh,” Achia says. “I want to increase these numbers and replicate my organization throughout the world.”
Support her work: Achia seeks more tech employers to create job opportunities for the women she trains. Connect with Achia on World Pulse.
Following her sister’s death, she empowers deaf women with digital skills to build livelihoods in Cameroon.
Regina Afanwi grew up alongside her deaf sister Agnes in a time when there were few resources to support her. That didn’t stop their family from teaching Agnes skills to open a shop. Before she died, Agnes brought girls off the streets to learn the skills that had empowered her.
Today Regina carries on her sister’s legacy as a sign language interpreter and founder of the Association for the Empowerment of the Deaf and Vulnerable Persons. Her latest endeavor is training women with hearing impairments to use digital tools such as Facebook and WhatsApp to sell their handmade products.
Regina has already impacted more than 700 people through digital workshops, giving deaf and hard-of-hearing women tangible skills to build a livelihood and train others. Through technology, the women build meaningful customer relationships and gain a competitive edge by researching new product ideas. Through her partnership with Liluye and Mercy seed outreach, Regina has also supported human trafficking survivors with training on gender-based violence.
Now Regina is developing an empowerment center geared toward deaf and hard-of-hearing women. Her training participants are already paying it forward, with two women volunteering to teach beaded sandal making, hair fascinator production, and interior decoration to others.
“My sister would be very excited,” Regina says. “She always had compassion, love, and a zeal to empower women with disabilities.”
Support her work: Regina seeks support to provide trainees start-up capital and purchase equipment for her empowerment center. Connect with Regina on World Pulse.
This Nigerian activist and educator is harnessing technology to make women and girls tech-savvy and resilient.
Chinyere Kalu is no stranger to leading virtual workshops. Starting in 2016, she trained women on the signs and symptoms of perimenopause. Amid COVID-19 and the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, she taught women to channel their trauma and fear into creative writing.
Now Chinyere is harnessing technology to mentor 20 Nigerian girls in coding and app building with fellow World Pulse member Basudha Modak of South Africa. Together, they’re helping girls become confident, empowered, and able to solve problems independently.
As they prepare for the Technovation competition under Chinyere and Basudha’s mentorship, the girls are addressing critical issues in their country. One of these issues is the kidnapping of young girls, which is often motivated by ransom payments. They’re creating an app that enables anyone in danger to send an alert to their loved ones via cell phone.
“It gives me a lot of joy to see women and girls turning toward technology,” Chinyere says. “You connect to people you’ve never met, you make an impact from the corner of your room, and you become limitless.
Support her work: Chinyere seeks financial supporters who can help girls access the internet. She also seeks publishers or translators who can produce copies of her books. Connect with Chinyere on World Pulse.
In Ghana, she’s creating a coloring book to bolster women’s representation in tech and give girls role models in STEM.
Last year, Lily Botsyoe attended a panel where a woman shared her struggle in finding a tech mentor. “Why don’t we put the stories of mentors into a book?” Lily thought. “Even if they’re busy or unavailable, you can still read their stories and be inspired.”
So began STEM Girls Picture Perfect, a book-based approach to mentorship. Lily’s project helps demystify STEM for girls, gives them role models, and helps them imagine a future in these fields.
“We want stories of women who have walked in their shoes before,” Lily says. “These stories will help them build their own journeys.”
The 50-page coloring book will be available as an ebook and printed copy geared toward two age groups: girls 6–12 and 13–18. Not only can girls color in the books, but they can add their own words and ideas on the blank back pages. They can even become penpals with the featured mentors.
Once it’s released, Lily hopes the book will inspire one million women and girls to pursue STEM. “These fields aren’t just for men in white lab coats,” Lily says. “They’re for everyone.”
Support her work: Lily seeks partner organizations that can print and distribute books. She’s also looking for illustrators to support with graphics. Connect with Lily on World Pulse.
This Nigerian tech leader trains girls to drive social change through tech, digital media, and storytelling.
Carolyn Seaman founded the Girls Voices Initiative to speed up the journey toward gender equality and broaden the types of education and skill-building girls receive.
Through her Tech Tackle Hackathon Project and her Girl Nation social impact film project, Carolyn has reached nearly 1,200 girls. Under her leadership, girls build a strong sense of community and learn technical, digital media, and storytelling skills to advocate for their rights.
Even during COVID, Carolyn is undeterred in expanding girls’ horizons and driving social change in Nigeria. For example, after a Girl Nation film screening about child marriage, a male community leader promised to pronounce with other leaders that no girl child should be married again.
When Carolyn looks at Nigeria’s more than 20 million adolescent girls, she sees 20 million solution innovators.
“If there’s no space at the table, create your own table and bring the space to you,” Carolyn says. “Engage and demand action where it needs to happen.”
Support her work: Carolyn seeks support in scaling and amplifying her programs. Connect with Carolyn on World Pulse.
Download the #SheTransformsTech report to meet more changemakers who are transforming their communities using digital tools. You’ll also find out what grassroots women and gender-diverse individuals from 60+ countries say individuals, policymakers, and tech companies must do to make tech equitable for all.