In 2021, women accounted for approximately 49.3% of Nigeria’s population yet only about 48% of Nigerian women aged 15 and older participated in the labor force, a rate that has dropped from about 57% in 2011. In fact, female unemployment in Nigeria has risen from about 3.7% in 2011 to 8.8% in 2021. This is why the work of organizations such as Women in Tech in Nigeria (WITIN) is so important. Women need support to gain economic independence, and encouraging female advancement in one of the fastest-growing industries could not be more fitting.
What is Women in Tech in Nigeria?
Women in Tech in Nigeria is both a nonprofit and an association, established for the purpose of empowering women girls and women through technology. It advocates for female leadership in the tech industry, equips women with digital skills, supports female entrepreneurship and campaigns for reforms that promote gender equality.
The categories of women WITIN targets include university students at any level of study in order to foster their interest in the tech industry, female graduates early in their careers, women returning to the workforce to whom WITIN provides returning programs and professionals switching from other industries to the tech industry. WITIN also caters to female entrepreneurs looking to technology for business growth, female veterans in the technology industry and rural women seeking jobs.
The organization partners with schools and educators to promote STEM subjects among girls and provides internship and volunteer opportunities to directly mentor them. Men who want to support women in technology can do so through WITIN’s #HeforShe movement. By bringing together women from different backgrounds in technology, WITIN has created a support system for women in the tech industry.
In 2022, Women in Tech in Nigeria stood as the runner-up for the WSIS Prize due to its WomenPRIDE.Africa program. WSIS refers to the World Summit on the Information Society, a U.N.-backed annual forum for those using information and communications technology (ICT) to promote sustainable development. The WomenPRIDE.Africa program promotes digital outreach to marginalized women, giving them access to the digital economy and teaching them marketable digital skills.
Martha Omoekpen Alade, the current executive director of Women in Tech in Nigeria, officially established the nonprofit association in 2009. She partnered with Google in 2011 to set up the Grassroots Women Empowerment Through ICT (GWEIT) online platform for women-run small businesses in rural Nigeria and these businesses continue to have an online presence even after the termination of the platform.
Alade led WITIN to partner with USAID and Intel in their respective initiatives, Women and the Web Alliance and She Will Connect, to empower women through technology, create entrepreneurship opportunities for young women in Nigeria and more. In 2019, Alade received the Community Impact Award at the Technology Playmaker Awards held annually by the digital tech lead Booking.com for WITINs efforts to harness technology to uplift 20,000 impoverished girls and women by 2022.
As the world grows more and more digitally interconnected, technology has evolved from a tool of economic development to one that promotes social and political development. Technology plays a critical role in the advancement of women’s rights and Women in Tech in Nigeria is one of many examples that solidifies this. It is, therefore, crucial to support advocacy efforts for gender equality and eliminate gender gaps in all industries altogether. This will be to the benefit of the communities in which empowered women live.
– Kena Irungu