The Founder and Executive Director of W-Tech, Oreoluwa Leci, a Non Governmental Organisation that works for the betterment and social empowerment of girls and women to using information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the development of the society recently spoke with Seye Joseph on how W-Tech has been using ICT trainings for the development of girls and women in the country at the Sustainable Conversation Conference on ICT in Lagos.
Can we meet you?
My name is Oreoluwa Leci, I am the founder of WTech, Wtech stand for Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre. It’s a Nigerian non-governmental organization working for the economic and social empowerment of girls and women, using information and communication technologies (ICTs).
When have you been running this?
And what has been your experience
It’s been interesting. Our first program was with women and we realize that most of them have phobia for technology so it was very important to start at a tender age and we started a camp. The camp is for secondary school girls and since then we have been running it. We have recorded a lot of success in terms of girls who come to the camp and they either don’t know anything about technology or think that technology is for men but when they get there, they realize it is something they can do and they actually start to think about careers. We bring women who are working in technology to come and talk to them so Nkem, the speaker here has come to the camp many times and she’s still coming again. It’s been good, so we have seen girls who actually gone to study engineering courses, technology courses and even the ones who are not pursuing technology careers, they know how to use technology so we always go to them and plan with them and ask them if they have shared their knowledge with others. They shared their knowledge with their brother, sisters, friends, mothers and so on. We even have two girls who had gone back to school to set up computer science department for their school, we have another girl who started the video recording in her church, we have other girls who help their parents in their businesses that operating in a manual way and help them to computerize their businesses, right now they use excel to record their transaction so like I said there is a ripple effect when a woman know how to do something she shares it all around to everybody in the environment.
How did they receive the idea of teaching them computer knowing the fact that this is a men dominated profession?
Yes they do, because of how some of them grew up, they had computer gadgets in their houses, for them they think about it but to other girls who do not have or know anything about computer, to them technology is something that is meant for men. But by the time they come to the camp, they learn how to create computers, learning how to use different applications, they are learning how to create technology, how to build website, set up blogs, learning how to film and edit videos and realized that anybody can do all these as long as they put their mind into it. We also invite women in technology to come and talk to them, when they see a woman doing it, they started to realize that the idea that technology is for men is just a stereotype. It is not actually true, true that there are more men working in the area of technology than women but through the camp they started to identify some women who are working in the area of technology. They now know that it is not for men but for anybody who wants to go into the career.
What do you tell them on how to compete with men when they get to the field?
We actually don’t tell them to compete with men, we tell them to be the best person they can be. Though we live in a very competitive society but the way to move forward is not by looking or competing with people. You should look for how to do things better, we give them skills to be competent, we introduce them to how to write program, we encourage them to plan, do team and individual work, we tell them strategies on how to improve their work and so on, so those are the life skills that can be used in all areas of life, even when they get to work but not to compete with men.
So how do you get this project funded?
Okay, we started with a very small grant but a lot of initial funding was self, family, friends funding and then we apply for grant. When you are an NGO in Nigeria, people will tell you that there so many NGOs, what are they really doing? They may not trust you but you need to keep doing it, keep documenting it and keep approaching people for help even if they turn you down so many time, eventually somebody will say yes to you. And when you get support from one company, the other start to look at you and give you some kind of credibility to give you fund. You must ensure that you are doing a good job; you are delivering good programs, documenting it, letting people know what you are doing, and you are also evaluating your program as well. So as you are running a program, we don’t just say the program is a success, we look at the program and try to figure out what is well done, what is not well done and to compete with ourselves basically.
So where do you want to take this initiative to in the next 5 to 10 years?
We will like to replicate our programs in other parts of the country. Logistically, it‘s been difficult because we are a Lagos based NGO, we are trying to identify partners in other parts of the country so that we can work with NGOs, schools, government. We will like the programs to be replicated because there are girls and women all over the country, those who need to improve their technology skills.
Who are the people this program focused on, the rich or the poor?
We work in school, both private and public schools. We run an after school program so we go to school in public schools to run technology sections. We also run a camp where we bring girls into one location for two weeks that open to girls in public schools. We partner with Lagos State Ministry of Education, we partner with schools, and we publicize our program as much as possible to get girls and women from anywhere.
Do you do anything apart from this?
This is the main thing that I do, I also run a bookshop now but for many years but that was just a more recent. W-Tech has just been all I have done.