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Tech-savvy girls hold Africa’s future

Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) is a non- profit organisation that partners with low-income communities to create a rich learning environment for women and youth. The chief executive officer and President Njideka Harry speaks about their journey

Who is Njideka and what do you stand for?

I am a social entrepreneur with an interest and passion for community advancement, especially through technology. I am a mother of three daughters and wife. My family pushes me every day to get better and work harder.

Professionally I am an Economist. I attended the University of Massachusetts where I undertook a Bachelors degree in Finance and Economics. Later, I attended Northwestern University for my MBA before completing my post-graduate studies at Stanford University in California. I believe in the ability of education to transform mindset and cultures.

What exactly are your organisation’s goals?

We empower communities.YTF is geared towards offering a platform to ensuring a sustainable programme to uplift the lives of those left behind in society. Collectively we work to inspire a new dimension of thinking, to ultimately deliver people from poverty. Our area of interest is technology because we have witnessed what it has done for many countries across the globe.

Information Communication Technology is the future and it is important to embrace it because it could be the difference in developing nations. The youth have numbers and it is important to have them fully inducted into technology at whatever level and given the opportunity to learn and interact.

What is the Girls4Tech project all about?

This is a project we are implementing on behalf of Mastercard, one of our partners. It aims to reach hundreds of girls to learn and appreciate sciences. Society tends to overlook girls because of their reluctance to take up on subjects such as Sciences and Math, disadvantaging them.

We want to change that perspective and ensure the skills gap is addressed so that young women get equal opportunities like their male counterparts. In the year 2020, we shall review progress because our target is to explore as much territory as possible and drum the message of technology home. Through partnerships with schools we want girls to develop interest in sciences.

What is the impact of the project?

When we look at the transition for most of our cohorts, the shift is impressive. We look at the subjects the girls select in school and how they adjust in the job market for the past 17 years the programme has been in existence.

I must say the growth has been phenomenal. At least 1.6 million young people have benefited directly from this programme across four countries. Ultimately based on our assessments, a third of the cohorts gain meaningful jobs in the market and earn three times more than their contemporaries. For us the increment in pursuit of sciences across the divide has been gratifying.

Why the major focus on girls?

Our programmes are not biased. However, girls have for a long time been sidelined. We are keen to change that mindset and set our girls on a path to success. When a society overlooks a certain gender, no meaningful prosperity can be expected and, therefore, for the womenfolk who occupy half of the world population, it is their turn to shine.

What can you term as the highlight of your work?

Our partnership with Mastercard has literally transformed thousands of lives. Together we have overseen over 100 launches in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and USA, which in many ways has touched lives.

The project started in Nigeria and is now in South Africa and Kenya and the response has been great for us. The excitement with the mobile explosion in the continent and booming technology gives us hope as an organisation that our work is not in vain. Our job is to teach and refer so that people can help to change their communities.

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