Ten years ago, Christiana Okechukwu saw how difficult it was for girls in her community in Enugu, Nigeria to get an education. Many young people didn’t have access to basic resources such as books or even classrooms. In 2005, she started Inwelle Study and Resource Centre, now a Global Fund for Women grantee partner.
“The idea was to teach impoverished youth computer skills at the lowest cost possible, while also offering workshops on job and life skills,” says Christiana. “The computer classes were meant to demystify the computer and expose the youth to other means of livelihood. We strongly believe that denying access to learning—digitally or otherwise—is a serious abuse of girls’ rights.”
Inwelle began as a resource center, equipped with a library, computers, and reading rooms where teenage girls learn computer and Information & Communication Technology (ICT) skills. What they learn helps them earn money for themselves and their families, and can help pay for their school fees. Inwelle focuses on teaching skills that will benefit girls for the long-term and put them in a position to grow. “Girls in our community are pressured by society to remain within the confines of tradition. So they tend to gravitate toward skills such as hair dressing or sewing—skills that keep them limited and are very low-earning jobs,” says Christiana. “Now that it’s the twenty-first century, lacking computer skills means these girls and young women are being left behind while boys and men are venturing faster into the tech businesses.”
For Christiana, economic empowerment is the target, but the skills also end up improving the girls’ self-worth. “The girls will be empowered to earn reasonable incomes, which will break the poverty cycle and make them active participants in charting their future. This will also boost their self-esteem and make them confident in their abilities.”
Adapted from an interview for IGNITE: Women Fueling Science & Technology with Michaela Leslie-Rule.