An oasis of digital learning in the Mathare slums
Transforming Mombasa’s tech industry
Even with a degree in information technology, Ajra Adullatif Mohamed had trouble finding a job when she graduated from university. She felt trapped; the job market was bad and finding work was difficult.
Ajra’s luck changed when she joined DOT Kenya’s youth leadership program as a community facilitator. Little did Ajra know that her involvement with DOT Kenya would change not only her life, but also the tech industry in Mombasa.
“It was with DOT that I started realizing there was so much more that I could offer and do for my community,” says Ajra. “I only needed to take action—be completely immersed in what I wanted to improve and work on the transformation I wanted to see.”
As a training facilitator, Ajra learned as much from the participants in her workshops as they learned from her. DOT helped Ajra tap into her passion for working with the community and identify opportunities to implement her ideas. She expanded her personal and professional networks, becoming an executive member of the Pwani Empowerment Network (PEN). In this role, she contributed to the development of PEN’s community programs.
It was clear Ajra had a talent for business development and social entrepreneurship. She participated in the Amani Institute Fellowship program which brought together brilliant minds working on the first open technology space in Mombasa. This initiative became M-Power, a community-based organization that creates technology empowerment initiatives.
Not long after M-Power was established, Ajra and a team of four other young people established SwahiliBox.
“It started off as an idea: a shared vision of a better, more engaged and empowered community of young people who would be impact-driven, tech-savvy, innovative, and creative problem-solvers with solution-oriented mindsets, focused on social good,” says Ajra.
SwahiliBox became a vibrant community of young leaders that created a technology co-creation space in Mombasa. Supported by local and international partners, SwahiliBox offers free training in digital skills and gives young Kenyans a place to develop innovative ideas, network, and work on their businesses and initiatives.
SwahiliBox is strengthening the tech ecosystem in Mombasa. To date, more than 2,500 young people have been part of the SwahiliBox community.
“I like to think of SwahiliBox as a community of self-motivated changemakers, who work collaboratively to achieve the goal of creating multiple opportunities for becoming financially sustainable individuals, and solving society’s problems,” says Ajra.
In 2015, Ajra launched SwahiliBox Ladies, an affiliate of SwahiliBox focussed on women. Its mission is to empower young women to become change agents and technology innovators by pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. So far, it has reached more than 200 girls and women.
Ajra has continued to pursue opportunities to further her own knowledge. She is a Chevening Scholar, pursuing a Master of Science in Renewable Energy Technology at Cranfield University.
Ajra is grateful for how DOT Kenya and M-Power widened her horizons and helped her develop networks to work for social good. With SwahiliBox, she is offering other young Kenyans the same opportunities she had.
“These opportunities allowed me to make youth in my community more engaged and empowered with technology skills, which have allowed them to become more innovative as problem-solvers.
“I like to think of SwahiliBox as a community of self-motivated changemakers, who work collaboratively to achieve the goal of creating multiple opportunities for becoming financially sustainable individuals, and solving society’s problems.”
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