Judith Owigar is a self-proclaimed techie with a particular interest in the intersection of women, youth and technology. She is also a keen social entrepreneur who co-founded Akirachix, an organisation that wants to start a revolution for African women in technology.
Owigar, who has worked in various capacities in the field of technology, realised that it could be a lonely place for women as the field is still dominated by men. While attending the launch of the iHub, a space for hackers, digital designers and bloggers in Nairobi, she met other like-minded women and together they founded Akirachix.
Taking its name from the Japanese word “Akira” for “intelligent” or “bright”, the project is on a mission to provide training, mentorship and outreach programmes to women to build their technological skills and use their know-how for positive change in the broader community.
“We don't just want to create users of technology, we want to create a powerful force of women who are creating solutions using technology,” says Owigar.
Akirachix runs three programmes with its one-and-a-half-year diploma course as the flagship. The course teaches IT, including mobile and web development, as well as graphic design and entrepreneurial skills. The aim is to get the learner job-ready or empower them to start their own businesses.
“We want to empower these women to earn a better living and give them choices that they might not have had,” explains Owigar.
The group also runs a high school outreach programme which includes giving career talks and teaching programming and graphic design courses. “We realised that career choices are determined by the subjects you take,” she says.
Akirachix has had many success stories. Graduates have gone on to take up positions in companies as graphic designers and developers, some graduates work as freelancers on a contract basis and one woman is pursuing a degree made possible because the diploma has enabled her to support herself.
Owigar advises other entrepreneurs in tech to start small “You will iterate and learn as you grow. Innovation is simply finding better way to do things. Don't stress about tech, use what you have to improve lives – that is real innovation.”