Shaping the Internet's Future Women in Tech

Seven Women Using the Internet to Make a Difference

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day this year with great news: The Internet Society welcomes a new Chapter in Lesotho – and the Chapter’s president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, as well as a board member are all talented tech women.

Lesotho is a small landlocked country within South Africa, where less than a third of its population is connected to the Internet. One of the Lesotho Chapter’s key priorities this year is to start an “Internet for Education” project, which aims to encourage five schools to use the Internet to support teaching and to improve the quality of education.

Please join us in welcoming the Lesotho Chapter, then learn about its President Ithabeleng Moreke and other women around the world who are using the Internet to make a difference in their communities!

Ithabeleng Moreke

Ithabeleng Moreke enjoys the world of the Internet and all things networks, the technology behind it, and Internet security – and how they affect our everyday lives. She’s worked as network engineer for the government of Lesotho and is now with Vodacom Lesotho.

Jazmin Fallas Kerr

In Jazmin Fallas Kerr’s hometown, Desamparados, Costa Rica, nearly half of all families with women as head of household are in poverty. To combat that, Kerr made a digital bridge between creation and commerce. Hyena is an Internet-based marketplace which allows women artisans to sell their handiwork online for a fair price. The site now has more than 50 local women courting customers for their crafts.

Juma Baldeh

How do you shift the cultural stigma around technology and gender? As Juma Baldeh has proven in Gambia, you do it one girl at a time. Baldeh founded Hackathon Girls Banjul for girls ages 8 to 18 in her home country, in coordination with the Mozilla Foundation. As the first technology club of its kind there, members receive six months of free weekly classes on web literacy and basic computing skills. More importantly, the club gives more than 40 girls a safe space to collaborate and share experiences as they work together on projects for a tech-savvy Gambia.

Kate Ekanem

Kate Ekanem, the founder of Kate Tales Foundation, has spent her entire adult life promoting education, literacy, and empowerment of girls in her home country of Nigeria. And it started with herself.

Makkiya Jawed

The intersection between technology and medicine is perhaps one of the most important junctions of our time, and, in a world where access is king, many people—in fact, entire countries—can be left behind in the dust. That’s where Makkiya Jawed comes in as the director of social enterprise for Sehat Kahani in Pakistan. The tech wiz joined forces with two doctors who launched the health tech enterprise, which circumvents Pakistan’s tradition of women having to choose family or career. It also caters to populations often overlooked by established medical communities.

Layal Jebran

To call Layal Jebran a multitasker would be an understatement. In the startup world, she’s more like a superhero. “I started as an activist when I was 12 years old,” Jebran said. “And my first startup happened my second year in college.” That successful startup used the Internet to connect freelance advisers to clients who needed them in the Middle East, but like many entrepreneurs, Jebran didn’t stop there. Lyl Big Designs led to other projects, and she continued developing several different ideas into reality, one after another after another. Why does she do it? Because she can, and because someone has to.

Portrait of kc claffy - © Stonehouse Photographic/Internet Society
kc claffy

kc claffy has been with the Internet from nearly its very beginnings. She’s watched its evolution from military project to government-funded point-to-point communication to its current iteration as a private sector behemoth. claffy is one of the few scientists who measure the Internet. She’s leading the way to the future by opening our eyes to the layers of data beneath the surface along with the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), a group she founded in 1996

Do you want to make a difference? Join SIG Women, which is open to everyone and works toward reducing the gender gap in technology.

Internet Governance

Leveling Up Women One Edit at a Time

Only 1 in 10 Wikipedia editors is a woman. Unfortunately, the underrepresentation of female perspectives is quite common within the tech world. In order to help achieve gender equality in content creation and dissemination, Wikipedia Editathons are held as a way of bridging the gap and encourage female editors to increase the coverage of women’s topics.

The Internet Society India Delhi Chapter, in partnership with the Women Special Interest Group and supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, organized the 1st Global Editathon “Girls in ICT” on 28 April, 2018. Various Chapters and groups participated in this event to increase Wikipedia pages about Asian women who have contributed to any technology-related fields.

“Women are seriously underrepresented in Wikipedia’s content,” says Amrita Choudhury, treasurer of the Internet Society India Delhi Chapter. She has over 17 years of experience in IT and the Internet industry and is a member of the SIG Women team. “Exact figures vary depending on which research you’re reading, but only around 17% of individuals profiled on Wikipedia are women.”

What Chapters were involved and how did you work together?

“As devoted to the #ShineTheLight movement, we decided to collaborate with the SIG Women, whose main interest is the empowerment of women in technology issues, and with the support of the Wikimedia Foundation, we organized an online Editathon involving the South Asian Chapters. Eleven women from various Chapters – Bangladesh, India (Delhi and Trivandrum), Nepal, Sri Lanka, and South Korea participated to the Editathon both in English and in local languages.

Few days before the event, SIG Women held a webinar to teach how to create a Wikipedia page. The Internet Society provided participants with an online video conferencing platform to discuss during the session. Apart from that, we held our own discussion on how to participate in the Editathon and selected the women whose pages we wanted to create. On the day of the Editathon all the participants attended the event remotely and the APAC Chapter Development Manager Subhashish Panigrahi came online to answer any queries regarding the Wikipedia editing. Subhashish is more than an expert on Wikipedia content development. In the past, he managed a flagship program to grow the reach and contribution of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in the Indian subcontinent. During the one-day event, eleven female volunteers were trained to create articles about women in science and engineering.

How do you measure the success of the event?

By the end of the training all participants acquired new skills. They:

  • Became aware that many women in ICT do not have a dedicated Wikipedia page
  • Learnt Wikipedia editing for the first time
  • Created new content in local languages such as Tamil and Korean
  • Researched and collected details about ITC pioneer women from their region and built their Wiki pages. Here are some of them: Vanitha_Narayanan, Debjani Ghosh, Minal Sampath, Kanchan Amatya

Related articles:
Global Editathon: Making Women in Tech Visible
Help Make the Internet Open to All: Join SIG Women!

The Internet Society SIG Women is a neutral space for projects, initiatives, and stakeholders that advocate for greater inclusion of women in technology and contribute to gender equality in the field.

Join SIG Women!
Follow SIG Women on Twitter!

Internet Governance Women in Tech

Global Editathon: Making Women in Tech Visible

Why is it necessary to “edit” the biographies of women who are doing an incredible job on issues of technology and the Internet? Simple: the contributions of these women do not have visibility on the Internet.

At many Internet Governance forums, we often highlight the contributions of the founding fathers, but how do we inspire girls to join ICTs – information and communication technologies – if we never mention women?

For this year’s International Girls in ICT Day, the Internet Society’s Special Interest Group for Women organized the 1st Global Editathon Girls in ICT. With the support of Chapters and organizations from all around the world, this initiative had a clear goal: to create local content written about and by women to make their work in technology visible.

Read about the Editathon on Twitter!

Only 17% of the Wikipedia content is about women and approximately 8.8% of the content in Wikipedia in Spanish is about women scientists. Where are those women who make a difference in science and technology? Do they exist? Of course they do!

“First Global Editathon Girls in ICT, was a huge experience for us, especially because Cape Verde could participate in this event.

We had a chance to put together women’s work and promote the ICT in our country, before we started we introduced ourself, our experience, our work, our expectations, our vision for the future of our country, this allowed us to know better our ICT women (not all of them), their project, and work.”

– Emilia Monteiro, República de Cabo Verde

We started the day in Islamabad and with a virtual node of women in South Asia. We continued south, this time of Africa, in Zimbabwe, and we continued in Tanzania, Kenya, Republic of Cape Verde, and Namibia. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we arrived in Latin America, where the day began in Buenos Aires, then Panama City and Lima. After heading to Mexico City we concluded the day very close to the Gulf of Mexico in Xalapa, Veracruz. About 300 women participated in the event which had 11 nodes in 10 countries. Computer labs, universities, and institutes were the venues chosen for this Editathon. Even individually or in teams, the participants created a total of about 70 biographies of women from their region.

“Participating in the global Editathon was a great experience. The people I chose to write about are two exceptional women who have made a difference in the country for their work, convictions, coherence, and integrity. I learned a lot from this experience, in particular, that a trajectory is not built overnight and behind each step made there is much work and learning previously done, as well as commitment to specific causes or objectives.”

– Karina Martínez, Mexico City

Only 1 in 10 Wikipedia editors is a woman. In this Editathon we learned not only to edit, but also the confidence to create content we think should be online. By creating and sharing these biographies of women we are inspiring more girls to pursue these paths.

While editing, we had the chance to know the work of many women, from different countries and regions, including:

Katitza Rodriguez
Debjani Ghosh
Kathy Brown
Maria Zaghi
Clara Luz Álvarez González de Castilla

The question of why we don’t make their work visible has become more urgent than ever. Where are these women in events with mostly men at panels? Because of the invisibility that exists for women in technology, we still believe that talking about technology is talking about men.

The task was not simple. It required the support of many people who joined this great project, first to make visible these women who are making a difference in ICT who are not on Wikipedia, second to gather information and organize nodes in their countries.

The challenge now is inviting more women to participate, interviewing other women, listening to each other and listening to them at events. We need to know more about these women. Let’s continue editing, creating, and disseminating their work. If we are not the ones who write about other women and encourage others to do the same, who will?

We need to be able to inspire girls to be engineers, mathematicians, programmers, and leaders and one way to achieve this is to get to know these “super women” who have worked hard so that today we can study without prejudice.

Our thanks to all those who joined: the Chapters that organized face-to-face nodes, the organizations and universities with which we teamed up, the Wikimedia Foundation for their advice, ICANNWiki for helping us with the workshop, and all those who supported us and participated in this incredible event. Thank you.

For an Internet to exist for the good of all people, it must be shaped by each one of us. Learn about Internet Governance and why every voice matters.

Women in Tech

Jazmin Fallas Kerr: Creating Opportunities for Women in Costa Rica

The age-old tradition of the physical marketplace may be crumbling, and many women-led families in Costa Rica are feeling the pinch. In fact, in Jazmin Fallas Kerr’s hometown, Desamparados, nearly half of all families with women as head of household are in poverty.

To combat that, Kerr made a digital bridge between creation and commerce. Hyena is an Internet-based marketplace which allows women artisans to sell their handiwork online for a fair price. The site now has more than 50 local women courting customers for their crafts. Kerr’s upbringing helped her develop the idea.

“I was inspired by my mother; she is a family leader and artisan,” Kerr said. “We are from an area of social vulnerability, and I know the difficulties these families face.”

The site helps solve a more universal problem. It gives women the flexibility and time to work outside of homemaking responsibilities.

“[I want to] empower women to create better opportunities for their families,” Kerr said. “It is being achieved through a platform involving different actors in society that involves from fair trade to online education.”

Winner of the “Creator of Digital Change” contest, Hyena exists thanks to that $3,000 prize money from the University of Costa Rica. As Kerr is a business student, she plans to expand the site to include structured business classes for the women using it.

“I know the benefits of receiving access to higher opportunities, so I decided to take the needs of this population and mix them with my knowledge in marketing,” Kerr said. “I personally believe that women have a special gift to intuit and connect with people’s emotions. These characteristics become powerful inputs to create more humanized technologies.”

Still, access to these technologies remains sparse, which is another problem Kerr is facing down fearlessly.

“I believe that there is a lack of knowledge and fear of technology. It is believed to be only for certain sectors of society,” she said. “I also think that the main problem to solve is universal access. Unfortunately, the population with the greatest need to acquire knowledge is the one with less access to the Internet and its positive use.”

The 25 Under 25 awardee says growing up with her mom as such a strong female role model along with two mentors, Kelmy Camacho, who founded an initiative to empower girls and women in technologies, and Sandra Cauffman, a NASA engineer, gave her the confidence and strength to be an entrepreneur at such a young age.

“Kemly is a very active woman who made the decision to dedicate her life to creating opportunities for women and girls in technology that has shown me the impact that can have on people’s lives,” she said. “Sandra is an example of how women can fulfill their dreams, break paradigms and be successful in technologies. She, just like me, grew up in a poor community in Costa Rica in a family with difficult conditions but with a powerful mother.”

While Kerr’s days and nights are hectic, with a mixture of business, educational responsibilities and personal fulfillment through activities like dance, reading international news and listening to classical music, she embraces her role as a young technology leader in her community, and hopes others will do the same.

“I was always taught to fight. Since I was a child, I was characterized as very active in my community, dreamy and with clear goals,” she said. “My advice is to seize opportunities and surround people with vision. One of the main things that I think has enriched my life is that I am always in constant search of learning, and IT is a world where there is still enough to discover and create.”

Join SIG Women, which is open to all people and “works towards the involvement of women in technology and contributes to reducing the gender gap in the field.


Women in Tech

EQUALS in Tech Awards: Recognizing Women’s Empowerment Initiatives

Celebrating the work of women who are making a difference in their communities by using the Internet is something that at the Internet Society we care about. Women are building businesses, learning new professions, sharing, and collaborating online. Women are creating new opportunities for themselves and their families by taking advantage of what the Internet has to offer.

And it’s important to continue recognizing the work of these women.

EQUALS in Tech Awards is an opportunity to do so. By providing a platform for outstanding initiatives, the awards are a key piece in increasing the visibility of projects that use the power of technology to empower women and girls all across the globe.

This year’s EQUALS in Tech Awards is looking for initiatives from all stakeholders that improve women’s access to technology, promote female leadership in the tech sector, and build relevant digital skills for women and girls. Research that produces reliable evidence to tackle the digital gender divide will be also recognized.

The awards are organized annually by the EQUALS Global Partnership, an multistakeholder initiative which seeks to achieve gender equality in the digital age.

The Internet Society is proud to be vice-chair of this global movement. As such we work side by side with over 60 other organizations, companies and governments to overcome the barriers faced by women to access and use the Internet.

We know that are a lot of powerful initiatives that are pushing the definitions of global technology toward inclusivity, safety, and integration in new and innovative ways. But we need to identify them, know them, and recognize them. 

As partners of EQUALS, we want to encourage our community and all stakeholders to help us to identify those initiatives and #ShineTheLight on them.

Nominate an initiative. Together we can #ShapeTomorrow and build an inclusive Internet with gender equality.

How to nominate an initiative for EQUALS in Tech Awards? 

You can nominate yourself or others who have done exceptional work to bridge the digital gender divide.

This year’s EQUALS in Tech Awards will be presented in four categories:

Access: Initiatives related to improving women and girls’ digital technology access, connectivity, and security.

Skills: Initiatives that support the development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills of women and girls.

Leadership (2 subcategories):

  1. Initiatives focused on promoting women in decision-making roles within the ICT field.
  2. Initiatives promoted by tech sector companies to bridge the digital gender divide.

Research: Initiatives prioritizing research on gender digital divides and producing reliable evidence to tackle diversity issues within STEM and computing fields

You can find information about how to submit a nomination here The deadline is 20 July 2018.

What else can I do to help to tackle the digital gender gap?

  • Join SIG Women, which aims to “promote a global neutral space that works towards the involvement of women in technology and contributes to reducing the gender gap in the field.”
  • Highlight role models on our #ShineTheLight campaign. We need to continue to hold up women role models and amplify their voices!
  • If you have an idea to close the digital gender gap, apply for a Beyond The Net grant.
Women in Tech

This Girls in ICT Day, Let’s Increase the Visibility of Women on Wikipedia

At the Women’s Special Interest Group of the Internet Society we are committed to promoting the participation of women in the Internet ecosystem. We also consider it important to increase the content created by and about women on the Internet to give voice and make visible the actions, work, and participation of women in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Just 17% of Wikipedia biographies are of women. This happens because of the invisibility on the Internet of their work, which makes it difficult to create their biographies, no matter how valuable their work is.

April 26 is the International Day of Girls in ICT, promoted by the ITU. It aims to reduce the digital gender gap and encourage and motivate girls to participate in tech careers. With the support of the Wikimedia Foundation and Internet Society Chapters, we are going to commemorate the Girls in ICT Day with an editathon marathon in Wikipedia, to include all the women who are working to build an open Internet, free, safe, transparent, and affordable for everyone.

The important thing about this Global Editathon “Girls in ICT” is that the content will be created by women in their native language or in the language of their region. We need to promote the creation of digital content that allows girls and women to get to know the pioneers of their countries. It is also important to create content in different languages, to increase linguistic diversity on the Internet.

The work of locating these women is not easy. If you know pioneers, founders, entrepreneurs, developers, and technology leaders in each region help us tell their stories by sending us their bio and references to

Do you want to join the Editathon party? You can participate in person or you can join online on Saturday, April 28th, by editing and posting on social networks using the hashtags #WikipediaForGirls and #GirlsInICT. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Friday, April 27, 2018
9: 00- 16:00 hrs
NUST American Space, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

April, 27 and 28
from 8:30 a.m.
The Institute of Accountancy Arusha

Saturday, April 28, 2018
10hrs – 16hrs
University of Palermo, Buenos Aires,

Mexico City
Saturday, April 28, 2018
11 – 17hrs
Facebook offices in CdMX
Pedregal 24, 21st floor (Torre Virreyes), Colonia Lomas de Chapultepec,

Saturday, April 28, 2018
11- 16hrs

Cape Verde
Saturday, April 28, 2018
from 9hrs
University of Jean Piaget

Nairobi, Kenya
Saturday, April 28, 2018
9- 12hrs
eMobilis Mobile Technology Institute

Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico
Saturday, April 28, 2018
16- 18hrs
Universidad Hispanoamericana Euro

10h00 – 13h00

Panama, Panama
Saturday, April 28, 2018
9 – 14hrs
Coworkspace, Balboa Avenue Ph Bay Mall Of 311C

Lima, Perú
Saturday, April 28th, 2018
9- 13hrs
Av. Alberto del Campo 435 piso 13 San Isidro

Together we can make more women visible on Wikipedia!

Women in Tech

Juma Baldeh: Breaking Barriers to Access in Gambia

How do you shift the cultural stigma around technology and gender? As Juma Baldeh has proven in Gambia, you do it one girl at a time. Baldeh founded Hackathon Girls Banjul for girls ages 8 to 18 in her home country, in coordination with the Mozilla Foundation. As the first technology club of its kind there, members receive six months of free weekly classes on web literacy and basic computing skills. More importantly, the club gives more than 40 girls a safe space to collaborate and share experiences as they work together on projects for a tech-savvy Gambia.

“Too often I witness young girls, who are skilled in math and science, lose hope as they prepare for interviews and professional positions,” Baldeh said. “Right now, many girls in this field leave it because they think computer jobs are too difficult and they lose confidence at some point.”

The club started with a small space and just five girls, training to be proficient in basic computing skills, computer programing, online security and privacy, and research and networking. Through these skills the girls can then go on to civic participation, economic empowerment, and leadership roles. One of the many problems with Internet literacy in Gambia, Baldeh says, is that “it’s seen as a hobby, not a profession.”

“Almost everyone is using the Internet now and in the next million years to come,” she said. “If people are shown how to use the web in an inclusive and engaging way, then people will use the Internet to unlock social and other opportunities. For instance, a teacher can reach out to her students remotely, a business owner can reach out to her customers easily and faster, but without people being web literate they won’t be able to understand what the Internet can do and therefore will be disadvantaged.”

Baldeh’s main goals are to provide the right hubs for tech activities, which includes Internet connectivity. She wants to “break cultural, social, and gender barriers to equal online access.” She also hopes to give young people a voice in the digital policy development that will affect them. She does this both with the club and in her full-time work.

Outside of Hackathon Girls, Baldeh works at InSIST Global, the No. 1 software company in Gambia, which specializes in hardy, flexible, and low-cost information systems within the African context. She says her manager, Kumbale Goode, has been an inspiration, mentor and friend throughout her tech journey.

“I always admired her as a lady working at a software company,” Baldeh said. “Her guidance was incredible, and also her humility stunned me as she was also ready to learn from me and see me excel.”

Excelling is something that takes hard work and dedication, man or woman, Baldeh says, and she’s made many sacrifices to get to where she is today.

“I felt intimidated most times in my programming classes or discouraged, but then I said to myself I have started this journey and now is the time to work like a boy,” she said. “I stayed up late most times to study and actually go through a lot of my work over and over again just to make sure I came out good in my programming classes. My advice to girls who want to go into the field of IT is to work hard and never get discouraged.”

Join SIG Women, which is open to all people and “works towards the involvement of women in technology and contributes to reducing the gender gap in the field.”

Beyond the Net Women in Tech

Teaching Sri Lankan Girls How to Code

Girls in Technology is a community-based initiative to help increase schoolgirls’ participation in emerging Internet technology careers. The pilot project, lead by the Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter and supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme, will provide grade 9 girls with coding lessons and extracurricular activities to help them select ICT subjects at grade 10. Niranjan Meegammana, project leader and director of the Shilpa Sayura Foundation, explains how this initiative will contribute to gender equality in STEM education and help the young women reach for the stars.

Internet Society: What motivated the Chapter to take this initiative?

Niranjan Meegammana: Sri Lanka is fast becoming a hub for technology and innovation, offering a wide range of careers in technology fields. However, girls pursuing a career in technology still remain a limited number. Girls are representing 50.28% of school population, but only 20% are actually studying ICT. The gender gap keeps on growing and generating a labor surplus. The root cause of this problem is the scarcity of opportunities for girls and teachers in the Internet sector.

Which innovative solutions will the project attempt to solve this problem?

Girls in Technology is implemented by Sri Lanka Chapter with the partnership of Shilpa Sayura Foundation and Computer Society of Sri Lanka and aims to involve many stakeholders. The project will train 800 teenage girls in coding and IoT (Internet of Things), 80 ICT teachers and 40 university students in 40 different communities using embedded devices and electronics. We are going to provide IoT kits, conduct local workshops and engage girls in after school activities. University students and teachers will assist students to create innovative solutions. The students will attend schools exhibition and take part in a competition. The innovative aspect of the program will be the creation of an extracurricular Coding Club to improve creative thinking through the Internet and STEM educational resources.

How will this project be a great opportunity for Sri Lankan schoolgirls?

This project’s aim is to create a community platform to address the gender gap issue. We are going to develop innovative strategies for technology education and try to deal with the problem of girls not selecting ICT as a subject. We are going to identify challenges, barriers and best practices to replicate this project at a national level. This project is a great opportunity to advocate gender gap in technology sector and influence policy about gender equality education. We hope this project will make the educational system grow so that young girls will finally have a voice and challenge themselves to be part of the future society.

How will the project contribute to the Internet Society’s mission?

Our project model is aligned with the Internet Society mission of supporting gender equality and ITC education. Girls in Technology will use open standards and the power of the Internet to develop quality education to enrich teenage girls lives. We are going to create an open community to motivate them to select ICT at grade 10. Globally speaking, our project will also contribute to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, SDG4 and SDG5.

How can people engage with your Chapter and learn more about the project?

By visiting the Girls in Technology project page , our blog and our social media page that will keep you updated about project activities and progress.

Do you have a great idea to make your community better via the Internet? Apply for a Beyond the Net grant, which funds projects up to $30,000 USD, and follow Beyond the Net on Twitter!

Women in Tech

Kate Ekanem: Promoting the Education, Literacy, and Empowerment of Girls in Nigeria

While the personal is almost always political, sometimes the person affected takes action that changes the course of history. That’s what Kate Ekanem has done. The founder of Kate Tales Foundation has spent her entire adult life promoting education, literacy, and empowerment of girls in her home country of Nigeria. And it started with herself.

“I was born into a family stuck with intense adversity, and a rural community with no access to quality education, basic health facility, reliable or no Internet facility, or social and educational opportunities,” Ekanem said. “There was no public library, no clean water, poor power supply, and streets filled with littered debris. Girls were resolving to getting pregnant [by] older men to escape the sting of poverty they were born into.”

After losing her mother at the age of two, Ekanem struggled as the only girl in a family of half-brothers. Her education took a backseat to the boys—something that she never fully accepted.

“I know what it feels like to rise in the morning and have nothing to eat. I know what it feels like to have an unending burning question, but dare not ask, because girls were not supposed to talk when the other gender were talking,” she said. “I understand that feeling of heavy humiliation that comes with being sent home from school because your parent cannot afford the school tuition.”

To Kate, girls have just as much right to be educated as boys. Without that education, financial instability amid women in the country is surging.

“I know the feeling of depression that comes with having the desire to read books but there is no public library or reading center in your community. I understand the frustration that arises when as a teen, you are studying for exam and power supply goes off on you in the dark of the night. I have lived in darkness. I have felt hunger. I have been immensely depressed, and I know, I understand what it means to be a girl, before a woman, in a rural community.”

Kate Tales counteracts that by making sure rural communities have access to education through scholarships and mentorship programs. Since the beginning of the program in 2012, Ekanem has empowered thousands Nigerian girls and women with entrepreneurial skills and confidence through 20 different projects.

“After one year of planning and working alone, I started receiving local official invitations to speak in high schools, and conferences. It was my first achievement and a sign that I was on the right path,” she said. “ I started receiving volunteer requests from people who wanted to join my pursuit to liberate girls and women and create a conscious mind in the rural communities.”

The organization has multiple goals including leadership and entrepreneur roles and literary and artistic development for women. These are achieved through workshops and books donations in schools, author talks and symposiums, exhibitions where women artists can share and sell their artwork. All of this is in addition to scholarships available for less privileged high school students in Nigeria.

Ekanem owes much of her motivational debt to a woman who spent 29 years in the FBI after being told at 11 years old that women couldn’t work there because “girls spend too much time painting their nails.”

She met her mentor, Lauren Anderson, at a summit in Turkey, where Ekanem was chosen to represent the African Union, and Anderson was a speaker on Barriers Women Face.

“Lauren is a goal getter,” Ekanem said. “She’s the kind of woman every girl aspires to become, and she’s an example why girls should never give up on their dreams.”

Anderson worked with several international and domestic non-profit organizations, focusing on emerging youth and women leaders. She worked with Vital Voices Global Partnership and serves on the U. S. Comptroller General’s Advisory Board at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, amid many other tasks.  Ekanem feels blessed to have been taken under her wing.

“Lauren’s story and her achievement inspire me immensely,” Ekanem said. “Her achievement is the reason why I keep moving, and consistently reminding myself daily, ‘Kate, there are more goals to smash. Lauren did. You can.’”

And smash them she will.

After working nonstop for Kate Tales for the past four years, Ekanem decided to go back to school, and is currently enrolled at Muhlenberg College, where she navigates between classes, assignments, meetings, deadlines, project creations, and continues to run her organization, checking up on her teams, and media projects, daily.

“My breakthrough from adversity was not magical. It’s more of divine intervention, and a strong determination to break the cycle of poverty,” she said. “You are more than what they tell you. Go ahead, smash those goals.”

This International Women’s Day, shine the light on the incredible women you know who are using technology to make an impact. Join the #ShineTheLight TweetChat with @SIGWomenISOC!

Women in Tech

Makkiya Jawed: At The Intersection of Technology and Medicine

The intersection between technology and medicine is perhaps one of the most important junctions of our time, and, in a world where access is king, many people—in fact, entire countries—can be left behind in the dust. That’s where Makkiya Jawed comes in as the director of social enterprise for Sehat Kahani in Pakistan.

The tech wiz joined forces with two doctors who launched the health tech enterprise, which circumvents Pakistan’s tradition of women having to choose family or career. It also caters to populations often overlooked by established medical communities.

“Sehat Kahani is a tele-health platform that aims to democratize healthcare via nurse-assisted video consultations by ensuring quick access, prevention and efficiency for healthcare,” Jawed explained.

Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram and Dr. Iffat Zafar, the co-founders of Sehat Kahani, both encountered the socio-cultural barriers to healthcare, but instead of giving up, they used their medical background to “democratize healthcare by building an all-female health provider network to deliver quality healthcare,” Jawed said. “They are the people who have taught me the power of team work and the importance of patience and dedication…In all honesty, whatever I have learned, they have had a major role to play in it. And the best thing is, they are females – females who have stood against all odds, fought against all barriers and proven time and again, that when one is committed, losing doesn’t remain an option.”

Specifically, Jawed tackles the IT challenges the system faces on a daily basis, including lack of operation areas and Internet providers, low bandwidth and high Internet illiteracy rates in the villages. She’s working to expand the network to include the rural populations. And she’s working to get more women into the technology field, despite social and cultural barriers.

“I love being on the field, empowering women to use technology, interacting with the underprivileged and helping them realize that technology can save their lives,” Jawed said. “My biggest achievement is not an award that I receive, rather it is when I hear the clinical staff tell me that they can now teach their children how to use technology, having never used even a smart phone, let alone a tablet before. Or when a patient walks up to me and tells me that I am a sweet soul simply for helping them connect to a doctor, something that is their basic right.”

Pakistan, which contains a population of 182 million people and one of the fastest growing economies of the world, is struggling to provide basic healthcare to more than half of its population. More than 40 million people live below the poverty line and nearly 30 percent of the total population lack access to even the most basic healthcare facilities.

As such, the mission of Sehat Kahani is four-fold. It works to use technology to surpass those socio-cultural and economic barriers discouraging women health providers from participating in the workforce, while at the same time creating sustainable e-health models at a third of the cost of traditional clinics, giving access to those with low incomes. In addition, the organization educates marginalized communities in preventative healthcare, an important step to low-cost health maintenance. Finally, the virtual doctors, specialists and mental health experts provide care to those who cannot physically get to a clinic. The model currently comprises a network of 14 e-healthcare hubs across Pakistan. In the past three years, the team of three has been able to reach more than 600,000 people directly.

So, how did Jawed get involved, and at such a young age, to boot? Coming from a life of privilege, early on, she saw the vast inequality around her and wanted to make a difference.

“Growing up, I underwent an existential crisis. It was difficult for me to understand why I was so privileged and had no qualms about wasting money whereas people didn’t have enough to be treated and lost their lives to preventable diseases,” she said.

Jawed is now on the forefront of tele-medicine in a tangible way. According to the World Health Organization, digital health is helping more than 400 million people globally who wouldn’t otherwise have access to essential care. The market is expected to grow by more than $12 billion by 2022.

This global problem can be attacked locally, Jawed said.

“When a patient walks into one of the clinics established in an urban slum community, a nurse who belongs to the community and plays the role of an intermediary assesses her vitals and connects her to an online doctor via a highly customized health platform that is being used in all Sehat Kahani clinics,” she explained.

Being a one-stop solution, patients can also access specialists, hospital referrals and basic dispensary items, at minimal cost, without having to travel for long hours outside their village.

“Sehat Kahani, for me, is a forum, which has not only provided me with a platform to raise my voice against gender discrimination but has also enabled and empowered me to cater to the most basic human desire; being a healthy human being.”

This International Women’s Day, shine the light on the incredible women you know who are using technology to make an impact. Join the #ShineTheLight TweetChat with @SIGWomenISOC!

Women in Tech

The Power of Women to Change the World: A message from our CEO on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, with the goal to empower women in all settings. This year, the Internet Society is celebrating by shining a light on the women who are shaping the Internet, including our own CEO, Kathy Brown. She shared her thoughts how we can ensure that all women have a place at the table in our increasingly-connected world.

The Internet Society: Who are the women who have inspired you throughout your career? How have they inspired you?

Kathy Brown: It is sometimes seen as cliché to point to the women who raised you as your first inspiration — but for many of us, and for me, I believe it is nevertheless true that our mothers are the first fuel for our activism. My mother was a “community organizer” in the 1960’s War on Poverty in the U.S. She was an activist in rural, upstate New York — organizing communities to alleviate poverty. She was a mover and a doer; she was fearless and never yielding to powerful forces who either did not see or would not see the effects of poverty on individuals and families. Having grown up with a woman with that kind of passion for people, watching what one woman can accomplish, I have never doubted the power of women to change the world.

How do you rate women’s representation across the Internet sphere, from technologists to content creators?

The Internet is one of the most powerful tools ever invented by humans to empower people. It allows us to access information, knowledge and know-how from a global community. We can also communicate, connect and collaborate with those who are closest to us. It is a tool for social and economic growth and is especially intuitive for women — who are natural communicators and organizers. Everywhere in the world, I see women using their individual and professional talent online to better their lives. And the number of young women who are now “digital natives” is growing. These young women are leading the way in using the Internet to follow their dreams and aspirations. More women are coding, building and enhancing the Internet than ever before. Women create content every day and their presence is making a difference in the way social and ethical norms are evolving. We encourage and applaud these efforts.

How has the Internet Society worked to ensure that women have a role in shaping the Internet? What can individuals and organizations do to make a difference?

The Internet Society’s Special Interest Group for Women (SIG Women) is a community created to make a difference. This amazingly dynamic group of women was born from determination among members to encourage the involvement of women in technology, help reduce the gender digital gap and ensure that women have a role in shaping the Internet. SIG Women is working to influence positive change in each region, but the road is not easy and more efforts — from all of us — are needed. Joining SIG Women could be the first step.

What does the future look like for women?

The future is about women. Women leading the way for a better world where they can live fulfilling lives, pursuing their individual dreams and those of their families. The tools of the 21st century — connectivity, access to knowledge, access to each other — are tools that women can and do put to powerful uses.

The most satisfying experiences of my time with the Internet Society have been meeting and learning from women, in every part of the world, who have used the Internet to become even stronger leaders in their communities, who have become entrepreneurs — in charge of their own economic future, who have embraced technology as a powerful means of communicating and coordinating with their families close and far, who are moving forward and will not settle with being left behind.

Want to be a part of the global conversation? Join today’s #ShineTheLight TweetChat with @SIGWomenISOC … then join SIG Women!

Photo: Kathy Brown visiting Barefoot College in India.

Women in Tech

Shine the Light: Six Women Making a Difference

This International Women’s Day, we’re boosting the profiles of incredible women around the world who are pushing boundaries using technology – and we encourage you to do the same!

Last month, during Safer Internet Day – a call to action for everyone to play their part in creating a better Internet for everyone – women in the Internet Society’s 25 Under 25 group, using just their smartphones to record video, answered the question, “What does a safer Internet mean to me?”

Watch the videos, explore the different ways these young women are using technology to shape tomorrow, then Shine The Light on some of the incredible women you know who are making an impact. Join the #ShineTheLight TweetChat with @SIGWomenISOC on March 8th… then join SIG Women!

Poornima Meegammana (Sri Lanka)
“A safer Internet to me is a place where a girl’s voice can be heard without harassment.”

Mary Helda Akongo (Uganda)
“To me, a safer Internet would be a place that is free and safe for me to have my voice heard, a place where I can share my creative content, share my opinions and my thoughts without ridicule, backlash and hate from different people just because of probably my gender, my race, my religion or my beliefs.”

Kate Green (UK)
“I believe that the infrastructure we use online – Google, Facebook and other social media platforms – should also keep us safe, and be really explicit about the data, what they’re going to be doing with our data so that we can make informed decisions about what we want to share online.”

Jazmin Fallas (Costa Rica)
“For me, a safer Internet is a space where people can feel free to interact but at the same time have security that their rights are protected.”

Makkiya Jawed (Pakistan)
“For me, a safer Internet is a place where instead of feeling judged, where you’re not hiding behind facades, people come across and actually speak their views and opinions freely; a place where even mental health can be discussed openly; where illnesses such as TB and diabetes are actually not hidden but rather people say them out loud; a place where we find support from across the globe, to be who we are, a place where I’m simply me.”

Paula Côrte Real, (Brazil)
“A safer Internet to me would be a place where people could express themselves without the fear of censorship or surveillance. It would also be a place free of hate and free of violence where people could exercise their rights without disrespecting other people’s rights, because freedom of expression doesn’t allow you to spread hate and to mistreat anyone, either online or offline.”

Read Lia Kiessling’s blog 2018: Time To Listen To The Voices of Women