Everyone’s dreams, irrespective of gender, are valid, and it’s a good thing the world is coming together to ensure that statement stands. While that is being done, we can’t ignore the fact that there are more out-of-school girls than boys in the world, that girls are being marginalised on a daily basis all over the world, that some careers are being seen as “for men only” in some parts of the world
Our #BellaNaijaWCW Oreoluwa Somolu Lesi is leading a platform – Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) – a non-governmental organisation working to empower girls and women socially and economically, using information and communication technologies (ICTs).
While studying economics at the university, Oreoluwa began to think about venturing into an ICT-related career when her small business – typing and printing essays for fellow students – began fetching her lots of cash.
Oreoluwa started the business with the old laptop her father gave her after completing studies at a computer training centre close to her house.
Her curiousity to learn more about how computers and ICT in general, could benefit economies led her to pursue a Masters degree in Information Systems.
While learning about the impact of information technology on economic growth and development, Oreoluwa realized that women on the African continent were very under-represented in technology – whether it was in the spheres of development, policy, or as users. She made this the subject of her dissertation and that was when the idea for W.TEC was borne.
Prior to founding W.TEC in 2008, Oreoluwa was Project Manager of Youth Empowerment & Restoration Initiative, an organisation working to increase local content in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry by raising awareness of Oil and Gas careers among students.
Oreoluwa worked for several years in the United States at an educational non-for-profit organisation on a number of projects, which explored the interplay between gender and technology and which sought to attract more girls and women to study and work in science and technology-related fields.
Oreoluwa returned to Nigeria in 2005 and while working in the oil and gas industry, she set up a mentoring project for secondary school girls aged 11-16 years-old teaching them to blog, become more confident using the computer and learn how to use the internet.
She soon quit her job to set up W.TEC and it has been growing ever since. She is a 2014 Vital Voices Lead Fellow, 2013 Ashoka fellow and a recipient of the Anita Borg Change Agent Award for her commitment to issues of women in computing in Nigeria.