How Abisoye Ajayi is empowering underprivileged girls with IT and coding
Abisoye Ajayi facilitates opportunities for vulnerable young girls living in undeserved communities in Nigeria as a social impact entrepreneur. Her organization, Pearls Africa, promotes the cause and advancement of vulnerable young girls for the purpose of economic independence.
She believes that if girls are empowered through education, vocational skills, ICT skills, they stand a chance of escaping abusive relationships and having a voice of their own.
According to Abisoye Ajayi, running her NGO, Pearls Africa Foundation is actually a full-time job and a part-time job at the same time. She dedicates plenty time to the NGO and she also runs a business by the side to help support the expenses of the foundation.
As a woman who is passionate about empowering the girl child with contemporary tools, Abisoye Ajayi also started GirlsCoding Nigeria Initiative in 2016. At the beginning, it was challenging getting brand new laptops for the girls but with contributions from family and friends, she was able to get used laptops.
Unfortunately, her organization spent more money servicing the PCs. For finances, when she started, majority of the funds came from family and friends. Later, she applied for a grant from the US Embassy and got $8,600, which was about N1.3m, at the time and that was really helpful.
Abisoye Ajayi impacts lives with GirlsCoding by boosting the self-esteem of young girls. They now believe in themselves and they know their rights. By learning computer programming skills and coding, they have been able to develop their critical thinking ability and this is one very important skill people need, to be able to think reasonably and clearly.
GirlsCoding gives girls a voice in the society because these girls now have skills aside their formal education. The girls learn programming skills which allow them to be able to build mobile and web applications which are very relevant in this digital age.
Abisoye Ajayi also launched Lady Labs Innovation Hub which is a space for girls from very poor communities to get functional IT skills. In this space, ladies studying computer science in tertiary institutions gain practical experience. It is also a co-working space for female tech founders. It was created as a step in bringing the girls and mentors closer. Lady Labs also provides a safe space for girls where mentors address questions on personal healthcare, child abuse, career choices and many other aspects of their lives.
Abisoye Ajayi focused on improving the female gender because some of the things she does can be traced to her background. Growing up, she learnt to survive and cater for herself. Without a mother, she learnt to be independent early in life.
Another reason she is focused on improving the lives of girls and women through ICT is because females are really under-represented in the tech space. You find very few girls in STEM-related areas because they believe that it’s not a field or sector that they can go into, which is a lie. Even though some developed countries face similar challenges, the ratio of women in science and technology is still fair in those places and not as bad as what we have in Nigeria.
With all these activities, Abisoye Ajayi aims to help women achieve economic independence. She wants a country where women are economically-empowered with voices of their own and do not have to rely on anyone. In a family where both parents are equipped with skills and are both working, the lives of their children will be very good and promising.
Abisoye Ajayi looks forward to a future where a lot of issues facing women and girls, such as various forms of abuses, can be eradicated. It is important for every woman to be economically independent, she noted.
Even though she used to feel out of place as a woman in the tech field, that stopped when she launched a center focusing on girls and getting them equipped with technology skills. Now, she doesn’t feel out of place and she trains these girls to be able to compete globally. That is her goal and she is not satisfied with the status quo right now.
Being a social impact entrepreneur earned Abisoye Ajayi the recognition as Ashoka Youth Champion and Honorary Citizen of the city of Pensacola, Florida title. She got it while on an exchange program sponsored by the US Consulate in recognition of the work she does in helping vulnerable young girls in Nigeria reach their full potential.