Pearls Africa Foundation Helps Girls in Nigeria Through STEM
Nigerian female programmer Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s love for computers led her to a life’s mission to help lift girls out of poverty through science, technology, engineering and math by teaching them how to code. Ajayi-Akinfolarin founded the Pearls Africa Foundation, which provides more than technological skills, giving girls tools to become financially independent.
About Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin
After graduating from the University of Lagos, Ajayi-Akinfolarin founded the Pearls Africa Foundation in 2012, leaving her job to dedicate all her time to the Foundation. a statistic indicating that less than 8% of Nigerian women had professional, managerial or technological jobs, a staggeringly low number, drove her to establish the Foundation. She wanted to give women and girls the opportunity to acquire the skills to change that statistic and lift themselves out of poverty. In 2018, she earned the title of CNN Hero of the Year in acknowledgment of her efforts.
The Girls and Women of Makoko
Lagos, Nigeria, has a thriving economy of oil, finance and manufacturing, however, the world’s largest “floating slum,” Makoko, is on a lagoon in the city within which 250,000 people live. The slum city rests on stilts and its residents use canoes for transport. Gentrification led to the displacement of some members of the slum community until many deemed it unconstitutional. Most people in Makoko, including women and girls, do not have access to regular food, water, electricity or education. Drawing inspiration from the aim of helping the girls of Makoko, Ajayi-Akinfolarin began the Pearls Africa Foundation.
Pearls Africa Foundation Programs
Similar programs are Lady Labs, which teaches basic IT and technology skills and provides IT experience. Empowered Hands provides vocational training such as bead-making, fashion designing, hair styling, Aso-oke weaving and more. Pearls Africa actively searches for internship placements for its students and provides scholarship opportunities through its EducateHer program.
Its mentoring activity, Safe Space, gives girls a place to cope with and address psychological trauma from their daily environments. Mentors answer questions and guide young girls in areas such as sexual health and dealing with abuse as well as cultural practices. This allows girls to understand and address their mental health issues, heal from the impacts of abuse, receive career guidance and more. Safe Space holds workshops every month to help girls build life skills and become successful in their careers.
The Foundation also has three different outreach programs: Community Outreach, Medical Outreach and School Outreach. Respectively, these efforts involve a feeding program and donations, providing free healthcare assistance in Lagos and mentoring girls in secondary schools.
Each of the programs of the Pearls Africa Foundation provides young girls in Nigeria with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty and lead successful, fulfilling lives.
– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons