Five young women leading digital education in Africa and the Middle East

COVID-19 has created a global education crisis, and it disproportionately affects rural communities, people with disabilities and young women and girls. 

In 2020, UNESCO reported that over 72% of students globally have been impacted by school closures , 3.6 billion people still have no access to the internet and other digital technologies and that one out of every seven girls globally is not able to access distance learning opportunities.

What we know is that youth – and particularly young women – need to be engaged in finding local solutions to challenges and be involved in transforming systems. Youth are trusted pathways into their communities, they understand local needs and challenges, and they are innovative, digitally savvy, and energized to lead change. 

Today, we’re excited to showcase community-based initiatives led by young women in Africa and the Middle East who are driving digital education solutions during the global pandemic. These are young women who are working directly with vulnerable communities, who understand the digital challenges that other young women and girls face, and who are providing safe, open and inclusive digital experiences to ensure no one is left behind. 

DOT has launched the #DOTYouth Street Team to support Duha, Maxine, Jennifer, Aisha, and Amenah and other young women and men in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Lebanon, and Jordan who are leading COVID response initiatives in their own communities. Through the #DOTYouth Street Team, youth are receiving coaching, learning opportunities, connections to partners, and seed funding. The #DOTYouth Street Team is made possible with the partnership of the Mastercard Foundation and the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.  

Here are 5 young women in Africa and the Middle East who are leading inclusive digital education in their communities: 

Duha Alquran, Jordan

Duha Alquran works with Sham3a Project – an online platform that supports young children with disabilities to continue their education through distance learning. 

The Sham3a Project platform provides curriculum and learning resources such as videos, educational games, mathematical equations as well as information to support parents as they help their children adapt to their new at-home learning environments during COVID-19 lockdowns.  

The pandemic has dramatically changed how education is delivered in Jordan. Online learning can be difficult and isolating, and requires regular access to a computer, internet, and a quiet space to focus – resources that aren’t available to many students. Through the Sham3a Project, Duha hopes to reach as many vulnerable and marginalized students in her community as possible to bridge this digital divide.

Photo of MaxineMaxine Brenya, Ghana

Maxine is the founder of The Study Space – an online platform that provides  peer-to-peer mentorship and learning opportunities as well as an online community where  students across Africa can meet to study together, and share motivation and productivity tips.

Using a network of WhatsApp, Discord and Telegram, Maxine has mobilized over 260 students from Somalia, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Rwanda who have come together to support each other in their education journeys during COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Strong peer-to-peer support helps students succeed. As students navigate new digital learning methods that may be challenging or new, peer support is even more critical. Because of Maxine and The Study Space, hundreds of students across Africa are getting the peer support they need to succeed. 

Photo of JenniferJennifer De-Graft Ninson, Ghana

Jennifer is the Founder of Beyond the Braille – an initiative that supports blind and visually impaired youth with basic, intermediate and advanced computer and digital skills to help support them in their academic journeys. 

Beyond the Braille also pairs university student volunteers with a visually impaired peer for one-on-one training on topics such as basic computer navigation, Microsoft Suite, and using the internet and online learning platforms. 

In addition to supporting their studies, Jennifer hopes these new tech skills will help students find a job after graduation. “There is already a high level of inequality against persons with disabilities,” she explains. “Some of them complete school and may not get good jobs or even employment because of their disability.” 

As a member of the #DOTYouth Street Team, Jennifer has been paired with a coach in Ghana to talk about her growth and sustainability vision for Beyond the Braille, and with her support and seed funds from DOT is looking forward to expanding her initiative even further. Read more about Jennifer here

Photo of AishaAisha Abdulkadir, Kenya 

Aisha is the co-founder of Pwani Teknowgalz, a social enterprise empowering young Kenyan women to innovate in the STEM fields. She is also a freelance web developer and lover of ICT, who realized many women in Kenya are not fortunate enough to be given similar opportunities.

Aisha grew up being told women couldn’t work in tech. Though she was able to learn programming in university, Aisha recognized that most opportunities to learn digital skills were male-dominated and felt unsafe or unfriendly to women.  This is when she had her a-ha moment: if she could create a safe space where girls could learn digital skills, and involve their families in the process so parents could witness and feel good about opportunities for women in tech, she could bridge the gender digital divide in her community and fill an important gap in the local education system.

Aisha and her co-founders launched Pwani Teknowgalz in 2015. Since then, they’ve trained over 5,000 young women in digital skills and built a sustainable and innovative community-based organization that is transforming the lives of young women in Kenya. 

In response to COVD-19, Aisha and her team at Pwani Teknowgalz have launched a program called “CodeHack Training for Young Girls in Kenya” to empower young women and girls to develop creative, innovative and tech savvy solutions that address COVID-19 challenges in their communities. 

Photo of DOTYouth AminaAmenah Bustami, Jordan 

Amenah Bustami is the founder of a social enterprise called Basirah, through which she provides education materials for students who are blind or visually impaired. 

Amenah launched her initiative in 2017 after she found herself supporting a visually impaired peer at the University of Jordan by creating audio recordings of course notes and exam prep materials. Recognizing the need to support students with visual differences, Amenah has since grown Basirah to more than 100 volunteers who create audio materials for students in primary, secondary, and university school settings.

Amenah and her team have created audio recordings of over 200 textbooks and many other educational resources, including audio versions of all national textbooks used in Jordanian schools. She plans to develop a national archive of multilingual audio recordings available to visually impaired students and their families.

Her work is just starting. With the support of DOT through the #DOTYouth Street Team, she’s been connected to social enterprise coaching, seed funds, learning opportunities, and a network of peers. Amenah plans to develop a national archive of multilingual audio recording available to visually impaired students and their families. 

Inspired by these daring innovators? Read about how more #DOTYouth are transforming digital education, taking action for mental health, working in prisons and refugee camps, and creating critical support networks in marginalized communities

Are you our next Community Leader, Digital Champion, or Social Innovator? Learn more about how to join #DOTYouth

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