Oreoluwa Somolu Lesi is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC), a Nigerian non-governmental organization working to encourage Nigerian girls and women to learn how to use technology as a means of empowering themselves socially and economically.
After her university entrance examinations, Oreoluwa enrolled in a computer school close to her house in Lagos while she waited for her results. When she left for the university, her father gave her an old laptop which she would later use to write essays for her fellow students to make small money for herself. She started to see technology as a tool for empowerment.
While learning about the impact of information technology on economic growth and development, Oreoluwa realized that women on the African continent were very under-represented in technology – whether it was in the spheres of development, policy, or as users. She made this the subject of her dissertation and that was when the idea for W.TEC was borne.
Prior to founding W.TEC in 2008, Oreoluwa was Project Manager of Youth Empowerment & Restoration Initiative, an organisation working to increase local content in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry by raising awareness of Oil and Gas careers among students.
Ms. Somolu worked for several years in the United States at an educational non-for-profit organisation on a number of projects, which explored the interplay between gender and technology and which sought to attract more girls and women to study and work in science and technology-related fields.
On returning home, loaded with all the experience she gathered over the years, Oreoluwa set up a mentoring project for secondary school girls aged 11-16 years-old teaching them to blog, become more confident using the computer and learn how to use the internet.
Following the success of this project, Oreoluwa was invited to Kenya to replicate this idea. She soon quit her job at a large oil and gas firm to pursue her interest in women’s empowerment through technology. Oreoluwa registered W-TEC with a small grant in early 2008. Its aim was first, to introduce young girls to computing, teaching all the basics. Second was to encourage them to think of pursuing technology careers in computer science and information technology. The center also set up workshops with older women teaching them the benefits of computing both in their personal lives and at work.
It’s going on 10 years now, and this inspiring young lady isn’t slowing down at all. She is working at the educational level by partnering with schools to ensure that young girls have access to conducive learning environments dedicated to the provision of ICT skills. W.TEC partners with schools to establish this program and provides the curriculum and ongoing support.