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Naadiya Moosajee and Hema Vallabh, female figures who make women shine in African tech

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Lilian is a young Nigerian girl from a modest family. Her dream? To find a job that will allow her to fulfil her potential and help her mother out of poverty. From a young age, Lilian has always had a huge interest in numbers and everything related to them.

As a bright young student, she could easily enter an engineering course and develop her skills. But it seemed to be a man's job. Moreover, no woman in her town was an engineer. So how could she go for it? She might as well go into another field.

But just when everything seemed to be getting in the way of her dream of becoming an engineer, she came across a television report. One particular passage caught her attention:

Our vision is to see girls all over the world, especially in Africa, raising their hands to say they want to be engineers. WomEng aims to reach 1 million girls by 2027."

These words from Hema Vallabh and Naadiya Moosajee, co-founders of WomEng and WomHub, sounded like a signal of fate, a lifeline for Lilian. It was a foregone conclusion, she would become an engineer.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Lillian women on the African continent. And in a world where women are not given enough say, discovering successful role models like them could undoubtedly change their destiny. Let's discover Naadiya Moosajee and Hema Vallabh, two women with exceptional backgrounds who have decided to make a difference and change the lives of Lilian women across the continent.

 

Two women, two destinies and one mission

The vision is clear. It is that of two South African-born engineers who are fighting for girls. They are Hema Vallabh and Naadiya Moosajee, co-founders and directors of WomEng and WomHub.

 

But who is Naadiya Moosajee?

Naadiya Moosajee is a member of the Global Future Council from World Economic ForumShe is the author of a book on gender, education and the future of work and a renowned speaker. In 2014, she was named one of the 20 most influential young women in Africa by Forbes magazine.

Member of the Advisory Board of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Cape Town, Chair of the Board of Directors of Tom Queba Memorial Fund and the MMI Foundation, Naadiya is also a board member emeritus of the International Youth Foundation, which works on youth leadership, employment and entrepreneurship worldwide. She is also a recipient of the Aspen New Voices Fellowship for development professionals in developing countries.

An engineer by training, Naadiya Moosajee has always been put off by the fact that there is a low percentage of young women in engineering. Yet the need is there and it is clear to her that women must be encouraged to take full ownership of the field. One of her fellow citizens, Hema Vallabh, faced the same problem.

 

Hema Vallabh

Hema Vallabh began her journey following a scholarship in engineering. It's a very male-dominated world. There are hardly any women, and when they are there, hardly any of them have a leading role.

In a world of gender inequality, Naadiya and Hema are fighting to make a place for girls, to give them the tools to lead the world in which they live without being made inferior.

"Engineers design our world and our society, and if we don't have women at the design table, we are excluding 50 % of the population." Support Naadiya

So there was no question of women being left out of this change. They decided to take up the fight that had been successful in seeing more girls take the lead in technology. Their determination led to two unique projects: WomHub and WomEng.

 

WomHub, a female incubator

WomHub is a pan-African incubator for women founders of businesses in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Manufacturing), an acronym that refers to careers in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing.

In addition to providing tailor-made programmes, WomHub offers women a coworking space where they can hone their ideas and benefit from all the resources required.

WomHub acts as a network and connects hundreds of women entrepreneurs to accelerate their various projects.

 

How does WomEng help women to develop?

Women in Engineering attracts, develops and retains women leaders in engineering worldwide through a series of robust programmes and interventions at every stage of the process including

  • Talking to girls about STEM in schools, in communities and online.
  • Organise WomEng LaunchPad workshops for girls in schools and communities.
  • Host STEM-related programmes such as coding workshops, robotics workshops, etc. involving girls.
  • Contribute to the creation of content (writing blogs, newsletters, product reviews, etc.).

The WomEng project wants to enable young girls like Lilian to choose the engineering sector and prove themselves so that they can more easily become players in a world that seems to not want women.

The mission is to empower women in technology, science and engineering. The two co-founders have come together to develop cost-effective programmes that address the issues facing women in engineering, from school to industry. With the main challenge being to revolutionise the face of engineering, Naadiya and Hema have come up with concrete solutions through WomEng.

These include :

 

  • Provide awareness training on new career opportunities in engineering and technology for women and girls.
  • Develop and organise employability training for female engineering students and a platform for engineering companies to recruit top female talent.
  • Supporting women who create and innovate in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Manufacturing) companies through targeted incubator and accelerator programmes specifically WomEng and WomHub.
  • Organise skills training programmes for the engineering sector, with an emphasis on leadership and entrepreneurship.

 

Together, and supported by many organisations, Naadiya and Hema have a strong credo:

"change a girl, change the world."

And they are determined to do so through WomEng and WomHub.