“It gives me so much satisfaction to hear someone benefit greatly from mentorship.”
Chapter Ambassador, Technovation Kenya
Marlene Chirchir knew early on that she wanted to work in a field that wasn’t traditionally considered “for girls”. She wanted to do work that would give her the opportunity to lead, solve big problems, and make change in the world around her. With guidance from her father and his friends who worked in technology, the answer was clear: Marlene chose to pursue a degree in computer science. At university, she was one of only four girls in her class.
When she joined Technovation as a mentor in 2018 as a college student, Marlene was already mentoring girls from her home village. Technology fields needed more female perspectives, and girls were eager for opportunities to learn and grow the needed skills. However, most didn’t have the support of mentors and parents to pursue the field like she did. For Marlene, Technovation was an opportunity to work with girls from more communities and support them to begin creating real technology products. Through her work with LakeHub, a community organization that offers several programs to equip local youth with technology skills and resources, she has been able to bring Technovation Girls to students at 8 area schools.
But mentoring isn’t easy—it’s a big time commitment, and some girls live in very remote communities with extremely limited access to technology. Marlene explains, “The most hard thing to do is find a mentor who is willing to give their time and expertise to work with the teams. That’s the biggest challenge.” Additionally, participating girls have to balance the ambitious goals of Technovation: learning to code, doing marketing research, building an app, and more, alongside family and academic commitments including exams.
Despite these challenges, Marlene and LakeHub have impressive accomplishments to boast. Since 2018, 60%-70% of the over 500 girls reached in Western Kenya have gone on to pursue STEM courses. After completing Technovation, some have also gone on to further develop and launch their apps, or come back to Technovation Girls as mentors. “It gives me so much satisfaction to hear someone benefit greatly from mentorship,” Marlene says, citing a meaningful memory of a student confiding to her that they didn’t think they would be able to code or create an application—it seemed too far out of reach. But, with the guidance and resources Marlene and Lakehub make available, they did it, and are now in a much better place to move forward into the future.