Computer programmer, Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin may have had a very rough childhood as she lost her mother when she was four years old, but that did not stop her from working towards her dreams.
On the 13th of September, she was featured as Nigeria’s first CNN Hero– a television special created by CNN to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities.
Abisoye is the founder of Pearls Africa Foundation, a social enterprise that promotes the cause of vulnerable young girls through technology, entrepreneurship, skill acquisition and internship placements. In a bid to fight poverty and also change the narratives of a high percentage of men in the tech industry, she started a programme called GirlsCoding.
“Technology is a space that is dominated by men. But why should we leave that to guys? ” she asks, in a discussion with CNN, adding that, “…girls should be given the opportunity.”
So, GirlsCoding was designed specifically for young girls living in slums, orphanages and other under-served communities, so as to bridge the poverty gap by giving them a functional I.T skill.
On Abisoye’s first visit to Makoko community, she was shocked by their living conditions and the realization that the Makoko girls were trapped in poverty hit her.
“Many of them are not thinking education, a plan for the future. I believe you can find diamond in these places. They need to be shown another life,” she says, reminiscing on her rough childhood.
“We want them to be creators of tech and not mere users. It is no longer about just coding; they try to solve problems in their communities.”
Through GirlsCoding, Abisoye has helped hundreds of disadvantaged girls in Lagos, gain the technical skills and confidence to transform their lives. Following the conclusion of the program, the girls are placed on internships at tech companies where they are connected to female mentors. Her vision is to add 20,000 female programmers into the Nigerian tech eco-system by the year 2020.
“One thing I want my girls to hold on to is, regardless of where you’re coming from, you can make it,” she says, adding that, “…..their future is bright.”