I landed in Nairobi, Kenya just two days before the presidential re-election. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was running against Raila Odinga. With much of the city shut down and waiting for the election to take place, our team decided to head to Narok.
Narok is a mostly Maasai area located about two hours from Nairobi. The drive was beautiful; we rode past the Nairobi River and I could see Mount Kenya covered by fog in the distance. As we got closer to Narok, there was a sudden mix of traditional and modern. We started to see Maasai men walking behind their herds of grazing cattle on the vast land. Younger men wore denim jeans, their shoulders draped with shukas (a brightly colored piece of cloth).
In Narok, we meet Magdaline. She's 22 years old and grew up in a traditional Maasai area but is now studying technology in Nairobi. She was home for a few days helping with voting. When we pulled into the community, we had trouble finding her home. So we asked around and eventually were pointed down a path off the main road. We followed the path and knocked on a door that turned out to be the correct home.
Magdaline appeared in jeans and a black t-shirt with gold studs. She smiled warmly and gave me a tour of her neighborhood, making sure to point out the school that she attended when she was young. We eventually set-up for her interview (I was traveling with my video camera and tripod).
As she gave me time to set up, word spread in the community that I was there to interview her. More people started to gather around to see what we were working on. In her interview, Magdaline explained how she was proud to have completed school. Many of her female friends had dropped out at an early age to get married. In the Maasai tradition, early marriage is common, and often a factor in why young girls stop attending school. Magdaline's mother was educated because her father was determined that she finish school; as a result, she wanted the same for Magdaline and her sister.
Magdaline explained that she was enjoying her IT classes, and when she was home, she also liked running a small cybercafe with her mom out of their home. She says it is one of the only cafes for miles where people in her community can access the internet and make copies of documents.
Magdaline's interview resonated with me because of the hope and energy she expressed about her future. She wants to educate more girls in her community and outwork the boys in the tech field. This was a sentiment shared among many of the women I interviewed about technology throughout the week I spent in Kenya.
At the Akirachix non-profit based in Nairobi, I interviewed young women who were passionate about making a difference in their communities through apps and websites they wanted to develop. For these students, mastering technology is about more than making money. Technology is a means to change the way their communities learn. Many hope that shift will improve the lives of all.