The massive city of Lagos is considered Nigeria’s Silicon Valley with its growing tech sector that recently attracted Google and Facebook. But the story is very different in Makoko, a town known as the world’s largest “floating slum”. It is built on a lagoon in Lagos and requires Canoes for transportation. 

Most girls in Makoko had never seen a computer until GirlsCoding came to town. The vision of computer programmer Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, GirlsCoding is a free program that educates girls on computer programming. Since 2012, the organization has trained over 400 girls. 

“Technology is a space that’s dominated by men. Why should we leave that to guys?” Abisoye said. “I believe girls need opportunities.” 

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Girls 10 to 17 get training on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, and Scratch after school and during summer. The program also takes students to visit tech companies so they see how technology functions and transforms the world. 

One of the students, Sharon Okpoe, has taken advantage of the opportunity given to her through GirlsCoding to help launch an app this past summer. The daughter of a fisherman, Sharon helped develop Makoko Fresh, an app that enables fishermen sell seafood direct to customers. 

“Right now, we are expanding info different states in Nigeria,” said Abisoye when asked what the organization hopes to accomplish in the future. “One day, we also hope to have an institution called Girls Village– a residential program that would provide all types of training for young girls. We’d also give them a chance to incubate their ideas about how to solve problems in their communities and learn how to pitch them. You could call it a bigger version of what we are currently doing.”

GirlsCoding is run by Pearls of Africa, a foundation that seeks to provide functional skills to young girls in Africa in order to improve the quality of their lives. 

Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin is featured as one of CNN’s heroes. Read her full interview with CNN here

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