She Builds. She Serves. She Leads.
Hilary Nicole Zainab Ervin, Nairobi Community Manager
Nairobi, 10 September 2015
Though Kenya made progress towards achieving priorities outlined under the Millennium Development Goals, Nairobi's urban poverty remains. Efforts to attain Universal Primary Education (MDG4) nationwide have not addressed disparities in access to education that still persists in many urban informal settlements. Gender-based discrimination continues to limit opportunities for women and girls in certain professions and academic disciplines.
Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5 target inclusive education goals that afford access and opportunity, and a platform for promoting gender equity and empowerment of women and girls. Combined, these objectives have the potential to address persistent inequalities that contribute to high rates of urban poverty, particularly among Nairobi's female population.
AkiraChix developed out of conversations among a collaborative group of women in tech: a need existed to address the lack of training and education opportunities for women from poor economic and social backgrounds in the field of technology. From informal networking, the organization has grown and evolved, now providing a diverse curriculum of age-targeted technical literacy and education for women seeking a career in the tech field.
The university-level program has created employment and entrepreneurship opportunities within the 'technology ecosystem' for 61 underprivileged girls. Currently in its fourth year, an additional 30 students are on track to graduate from the program in December 2015. The Chix are gearing up to open applications for the 2016 class in October 2015, so check out their Facebook, Twitter, and blog feeds to apply.
Co-Founder Angela Oduor Lungati highlighted how one of AkiraChix's most successful strategies has been to collaborate and build effective partnerships with champions, teachers and advocates. Their work at the university level reinforced how career paths in Kenya are identified in the final years of high school. AkiraChix therefore began to develop an outreach program that encourages involvement in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at a younger age. To date, they have reached 280 girls in secondary school through an integrated program that includes biweekly computer clubs, intensive boot camps during school holidays, and an annual Geek Girls Festival organized on International Girls in ICT Day.
The youth program targeting primary school-aged children grew out of years of experience progressively developing girls' technical skills. AkiraChix's philosophy maintains that by working to empower young girls early on with technical literacy, their individual creativity and curiosity will continue to grow as they mature. The group is currently running its second Tech and Arts Camp. This one-week intensive teaches girls aged 7-14 how to use MIT's Scratch application coupled with creative classes in art and design.
Owning to their dedication and hard work, AkiraChix was featured at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015, where U.S. President Obama and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta sat alongside co-founder Judith Owigar to discuss how the organization has worked to impact communities, one woman at a time.
A self-defined "wholesome program", AkiraChix is on track to reach its own goal of establishing itself as the leading network of women impacting technology in Africa. Oduor points out that although the organization is bursting with human capital, access to critical resources remains a challenge to effectively scaling up programs. The network is comprised of roughly 980 volunteers who engage in a diversity of community outreach activities – a considerable amount of collective agency in action.
These "Galz in Tech" have shown over the past five years the impact that a dynamic approach can have on addressing key Sustainable Development Goals through empowering women and disrupting dated curriculums by pushing forward with industry-relevant content and skills.
Photo: AkiraChix at The iHub.