To say that Judith Owigar’s work is revolutionary would be massively understating it. As one of Kenya’s foremost social entrepreneurs, Judith is working on the frontlines to ensure that there is a significant increase in the number of women and girls working and thriving in the tech ecosystem in Africa.
Judith is the co-founder and president of AkiraChix, a social enterprise radically changing the lives of women in East Africa by providing training, mentorship, and outreach programs for women in technology. She and her friends started AkiraChix in response to the challenges and outright bias they faced as women working in the tech space in Africa. They created AkiraChix as a way to provide a space where women could come together and learn from each other. Judith’s work with AkiraChix has been a significant boost for women innovators in Africa. AkiraChix’s vision to ‘nurture generations of women who use technology to develop innovations and solutions for Africa’ has contributed immensely to empowering women in Africa both technologically and financially and has enabled women serve and lead their communities.
Judith Owigar is Kenyan by birth. She attended the University of Nairobi where she graduated with a degree and a master’s degree both in Computer Science.
Judith started her career as a tech support specialist at Turnkey Africa, a Kenya based company that provides solution to insurance and banks in Africa. In April 2008, she moved to Ibid Labs where she worked as a developer. Miss Owigar has also worked with the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. In 2010, she attended iHUB’S maiden launch (iHUB is an innovation hub for the technology community in Nairobi) and noticed they were only a few ladies in attendance. This prompted her and her friends to co-found AKIRACHIX as a way to increase the ratio of women to men in technology. Programs at the organization are developed to reach young women at different levels including but not restricted to Primary Schools, High Schools and Universities; there are also programs for those working in the technology field and those who wish to have a career in technology.
In 2012, Judith founded Juakali, (which means GET IT DONE in Swahili) an online platform that creates opportunities for low income earners to have a better livelihood. The platform serves as a link between skilled manual workers from Kenya’s informal sector and jobs in construction companies. Through JuaKali, Judith is pioneering an original model to increase employment in Kenya through building the capacities of the informal economy.
Judith has received a number of recognitions and honors for her work, notable among them are the Anita Borg Change Agent award in 2012, the top 40 women under 40 award for women who have made a significant impact on Kenya, economically and socially. She is an East Africa Acumen Fellow and an International Focus Fellow. She was listed as one of 10 African voices to follow on Twitter by CNN. She was a speaker at the renowned Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2015 where she shared the stage with Former US President Barack Obama and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
Judith currently serves in Africa WeTech (Women Enhancing Technology) Leadership Council and the St. George’s Primary School Alumni Association.
#TechHer loves Judith Owigar because she is passionate about technology and believes there should be no stereotype in the tech industry. Judith’s work provides an entry point for many women and girls who may want to enter the IT/Tech industry but feel discouraged because of the prevalent male dominance in the industry. We see her as a role model/ mentor to women and girls who want to identify their potential in the tech field. Also, her support for other young women in the field by creating training sessions to empower them with skills like coding, web development and technical skills truly excites us here at TechHer!
Sheila Birgen holds a BA in Public Relations from Daystar University. In 2014, she obtained a certificate in Executive Education Programme and Investing in early-stage growth companies from Graduate school of Business; University of Cape town.
In 2016, she attended the Arizona state university community partnership for social action research where she was certified in empowerment for peace through leadership in Agribusiness and sustainability.
Sheila has held several positions in different organizations listed as follows:
In 2011, she was a Public Relations Assistant at Square gold PR & marketing firm.
Between March 2012- August 2013, she was the Communication & outreach lead at M: Lead Africa.
Between September 2013- March 2014, she became the community lead at M: Lead Africa where she progressed to become the lead in March 2015.
In April 2016, she became the Head of Community at iHub Nairobi.
Sheila Birgen is the CEO and Team lead of M: Lab East Africa. M: Lab East Africa is a consortium of four organizations that aim to become the leaders in identifying, nurturing and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy. These organizations are eMobilis, World Wide Web Foundation, University of Nairobi and iHub.
Sheila became a part of M: Lab team because she is passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. In her words, ‘You can’t get any faster than technology’.
Sheila receives support from Africa’s premier mobile start up pitching competition. The support gives her clients a platform to connect with the entrepreneurs in the sub region.
The M: Lab team also organizes sector-specific forums on how to best utilize technology. These forums offer opportunities for developers to tap into on-the-ground challenges in the markets in which they hope to operate.
She has also partnered with Microsoft and Intel on capacity development for developers. These kind of partnership ensures the growth of game developers. It also helps to bring more developers into the market.
Her work with M: Lab has impacted a great deal to different sectors in Nairobi. Here are a few of them:
In Education, Eneza now has over 50,000 users.
In Finance, Kopo Kopo has created jobs in Kenya and has over 40 employees. Kopo Kopo is a company that helps small businesses to use mobile money for their businesses.
In Health, ToTo Health is helping over 30,000 mothers monitor their maternal health and Childs development. Toto health uses SMS technology to help reduce maternal and child mortality.
In Agric, Mfarm is multiplying sales of farmers and increasing income for their families. Mfarm provides up-to-date market prices via an app or SMS direct to farmers ensuring there is Price transparency.
She also provides a platform for a market driven training on different platforms, business incubation and testing lab for apps.
Why TechHer loves her:
Sheila collaborates with partners such as Akirachix to offer internship opportunities to women training from high school. These internship opportunities will lead to an increase in the number of women who apply to Pivot East. Pivot east is East Africa’s premier mobile start ups pitching competition. It is also an M: Lab East initiative.
She is currently seeking for partnership both in the public and non-profit sector because technology offers solutions for many of the challenges they face.
At TechHer, we appreciate women like Sheila who does not let the circumstances in Africa limit them. She consistently thinks of ways to use technology to make a difference. This alone is worth celebrating.
Miss Marie Githinji, a 32 year old Kenyan nationale is the Co-founder of two groundbreaking startups called eLimu and Akirachix. She is very passionate about IT and inspires innovation among women working in this space. She is an IT Freelancer, coder, facilitator and speaker at leadership camps. She enjoys Cricket and her favorite player is Sachin. Miss Githinji loves her job because there is always something new to discover and learn every bit of the way; the casual factor of wearing jeans and t-shirts and the change that happens in the industry at the speed of light.
In her spare time, she loves watching movies. Marie got interested in programming while she was in high school and she figured out the career path to follow.
Miss Githiniji is a co-founder and Outreach/Communication Advisor at Akirachix; a networking, mentor-ship and training platform for women interested in technology. They started off with 8 women and presently they have more than 800 women on their mailing list. It is a social enterprise to teach girls and women tech skills.
eLime is a platform she co-founded to help Kenya primary school children learn by using a rich digital content such as Quiz and Animation that simply explains financial literacy, Civic and Social lesson on Citizenship and Kenyan’s constitution. It is one of the most talked about EdTech innovations in Africa.
The project is piloted in four schools and several libraries in Kenya.The website contains thousands of lessons.
She is also a Program Manager of Infonet; a technology innovation facility that empowers citizens and civil societies in service delivery and democratic governance with the aid of technology.
While working at Infonet in December 2013, she led a team that created a budget tracking tool called 'Ugatuzi'. Ugatuzi helps citizens engage in public finance management. Ugantuzi also attempts to provide an open data system and information platform for citizens to actively engage in such process beyond being whistle blower’s.
She also worked for an NGO called Social Development Network (SODNET).
Marie worked with Ushahidi as a senior developer. Ushahidi is a non-profit tech company that develops free and open-source software. Ushahidi was developed to map the post-election violence in Kenya. She was part of a team of 24 that managed the "Testing and User Experience Feedback" of Ushahidi Version 3.0 alongside its re-branded website.
Why TechHer Loves Her.
Marie is not intimidated by the male dominated industry. Rather, she puts in more energy and has so much drive to influence her society positively through technology.
Her zest and intelligence to have more women embracing technology and use it as a tool to solve societal problems has been portrayed through several successful programs; free training's on IT courses and other platforms she has co-founded.