Geneza School Blog

How we provide women with tech skills, tools to thrive – Azari Founder

January 16, 2024

The need to bridge the gender imbalance of women in the Design and Tech industry, especially in Africa, informed the setting up of Azari Women in Tech Africa, formerly known as The Female Designer Movement. This initiative since its inception, five years ago, has successfully trained 5000 African women in Design and Tech skills, free of charge.

In an exclusive chat with Vanguard, the founder of Azari Women in Tech Africa, Bolanle Banwo Osadolo, speaks on her journey to creating equal opportunities for women in the digital space.

Tell us about yourself

I am Bolanle Banwo Osadolo, a brand identity designer and design advocate from Lagos, Nigeria. I found Geneza Brands, an agency that specializes in helping brands build strong identities and tell compelling stories through creative designs. I am also the Founder of The Female Designer Movement (Azari), an initiative launched with a mission to train and equip women with a design skill set, thereby increasing the number of women in the Nigerian Technology ecosystem.

More on Azari Women in Tech Africa

Since our establishment in January 2018, The Female Designer Movement, now Azari Women in Tech Africa has been driven by a clear and unwavering mission: to equip and empower African women with invaluable skill sets, ultimately increasing their representation and impact in the dynamic world of technology. Our comprehensive training programs are completely free of charge.

At Azari, we firmly believe in the transformative power of education and the boundless potential within each woman. Through meticulously crafted training initiatives, we provide African women with the tools and knowledge necessary to thrive in the ever-evolving fields of design and technology. Whether it’s mastering graphic design techniques or honing other essential tech skills, we are committed to ensuring our trainees are well-prepared for the multitude of opportunities that lie ahead.

We also foster a supportive community that encourages the beneficiaries through mentorship, gives them opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals, and shatters the glass ceiling that has hindered their progress.

Why focus on women?

There is a low representation of women in the Design and Tech industry especially in Africa. We want to bridge the digital skills gender gap, empower women and girls, foster inclusivity, and drive innovation to new heights. We want more women to know that they can get into tech and achieve amazing feats.

How many women have you impacted?

Since our establishment in 2018, we have impacted over 5000 African women.

In the November 2023 event, 1500 women from 26 countries registered. The goal is to reach 50,000 in the next decade.

What are the challenges you have faced training these women?

Interacting and helping a massive number of people can be very demanding. As much as we are passionate about helping the beneficiaries, catering to thousands of women from different backgrounds requires capacity. There are so many people to help but limited resources.

An example would be, there is a student who wants to take a User Interface course but she doesn’t have a laptop and a laptop is essential. We need resources to help someone like that.

Another challenge would be getting enough volunteers to mentor the students extensively. But we have lots of help and support that we are grateful for. Passionate team members like Odeh Asia, Anoliefo Chisom, Akpeji Peace and over 80 amazing volunteers. We also had support from so many incredible female design leads this year. Women who took time from their busy schedules to create the masterclass videos for the beneficiaries completely free of charge. Here is a shoutout to Blessing Abeng, IniOluwa Abiodun, Fungi Dube, Olamide Femi-Taiwo, Stephanie Orkuma, Mirabelle Morah, Linda Ojo, Chukwu Adaeze Victoria, Lethabo Huma, Yvonne Ogwulu, Bolutife Awakan, Mayowa Adeyemi, Raheemat.

What are your prospects?

In the coming decade, we have a goal to empower at least 50,000 African women. We envision a future where gender barriers are dismantled, diversity is celebrated, and innovation flourishes. Each empowered woman becomes an agent of progress, contributing to the growth and vibrancy of the design and creative sectors.

And are there prospects for women in tech?

So many. Tech is here to stay. And there are so many opportunities for people, women who are willing to put in the work. We will be here to support them every step of the way.

Is the government or key stakeholders doing enough to get women into the tech space?

They are making a lot of effort to address gender diversity in the tech industry. We have to acknowledge that. And while there have been positive initiatives and progress, there is always room for improvement. Continuous collaboration and open dialogue between the various stakeholders can help identify additional opportunities and refine existing strategies to ensure sustained support for women in the tech sector. It’s an ongoing journey, and acknowledging the progress made while remaining receptive to further enhancements like what we are trying to achieve at Azari.

Have you received any awards or recognition for the work you do?

Yes. I received the Tech Elle Award ’23 at the prestigious She Code Africa Summit in October 2023. In that same year, I served as an official UN Women delegate for the United Nations CSW67. I have featured on BBC Pidgin in March 2018, at the inaugural edition of The Female Designer Movement. I also spoke at the JAN/Microsoft DigiGirlz Camp held at the Microsoft Lagos office for International Women’s Day. In April, I was listed on Wema Bank’s’s Women In Tech (Tech-Chicks).

I have also been nominated by WeForGood International on the esteemed list of 100 women who are creating a better Africa (100WCBA 2023). Most Nigerian media such as Business Day, The Nigerian Tribune, and Channels Television.

In 2024, we are working towards partnering with organizations to empower young African women to achieve their potential through the provision of continuous learning opportunities like this. With the increasing number of unemployed youths, there is no better time to empower women than now.

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