In 2015, Grace Ihejiamaizu, social entrepreneur and founder of Opportunity Desk and iKapture Networks, mentored a group of young girls called Team Charis who joined the Technovation program. They learnt how to code and went on to design a mobile app that won the World Pitch competition in San Francisco. Grace believes those girls are going to change the world with that idea. Their app was aimed at solving the problem of indiscriminate waste disposal.
Three years later, five teenage girls under the guidance of Uchenna Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, STEM advocate and CEO of Edufun Technik, would go ahead to add gold medals to their lovely green and white dresses in Silicon Valley. Five months of hardwork and dedication resulted to a mobile app called the Fake Drug-Detector. The FD detector came tops out of over 2000 applications and will tackle the challenge of fake pharmaceuticals in the country.
Vivian Okoye, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Promise Nnalue would have been usual names of five random Igbo girls but with their recent achievement, they have made name for themselves, their teacher and probably their school.
The Technovation challenge is a program that offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the programming skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. Every year girls are invited to identify a problem in their communities, and they are challenged to solve them by developing android apps. In line with the objectives of the program, Team Save A Soul representing Nigeria competed with USA, Spain, Turkey, Uzbekistan and China in the 2018 Technovation World Pitch Junior Division on 8th August 2018 in San Francisco, USA and bagged the gold medal.
Stories like this make me really happy. Let us continue make empowerment of the girl child a resourceful one where our girls go out there to rewrite history with their innovative ideas, talent and skills.
Pic 1 &2 : Team Save-A-Soul🇳🇬
Pic 3 &4: Team Charis🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/uCCGuf4PXp
— Bren👩🏿💻 (@EnablerOfVision) August 11, 2018
Everyone is sharing and liking their pictures on every online platform because just as the saying goes, success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. While there is nothing wrong for all of us to identify as proud Nigerians, there surely should be more to this victory. Besides the Vice President’s tweet congratulating both the girls and their mentor, the Federal government could make a bigger statement on this victory by ensuring that this solution app is scaled up and even made available in other countries.
Apart from my fears that these girls will fizzle out of spotlight in a matter of weeks, the intellectual property of this app is another concern; I wonder whether royalties will be paid to them if in the long run NAFDAC officially adopts the app. In the meantime, there should be a reward, financially or otherwise, something with which to welcome them after their one week stay of field trips, networking sessions and workshops in the states. Who knows, it might encourage teenagers and youths as a whole to explore positive means of achieving fame other than infamous shows where good morals are ditched for millions of naira.
This event must really be groundbreaking for advocates of STEM and girl child education in Nigeria. Perhaps it is a good exhibit for convincing fathers in certain parts of the country who are reluctant to send their daughters to school, a reality that continues to hold the country back as a whole.
Moreso, a citizen like Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, who defies odds in a nation run by comedians, to put this country on global maps of innovation and success, is surely an icon to be emulated and encouraged. She has spent three years in bringing STEM to underprivileged children in the country and deserves every accolade that could accrue from this. Being proud of her should go beyond a tweet, to the provision of finance by the government especially in communities where child marriage and girl child education has proven problematic. She and the Save A Soul team of five can be engaged to share their knowledge with other girls who have never dreamt of education taking them beyond their respective school walls.
With the exponential rise in NGOs, foundations and volunteering organisations, millions of other dreaming and capable Nigerian girls should be provided platforms to nurture their skills and add value to the nation as a whole. Boot camps, competitions, and quality education will be necessary opportunities for them to increase in their capacity. We might just have more girls bring back gold from Silicon Valley, maybe next time from Ojuelegba.
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