By Oluwatomiwa Ogunniyi
19 March 2023 |
Mother’s Day is today. It is a chance to appreciate and celebrate mothers for their roles in the society. Synonymous to mothers’ roles is what Uchenna Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, founder of Edufun Technik Limited, a leading voice in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education development for girls, is doing. She uses technology to shape the future of…
Mother’s Day is today. It is a chance to appreciate and celebrate mothers for their roles in the society. Synonymous to mothers’ roles is what Uchenna Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, founder of Edufun Technik Limited, a leading voice in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education development for girls, is doing. She uses technology to shape the future of children who see her as their mother.
Despite being dominated by the male gender, young girls have also taken a stand to excel in STEM, as well. Through the motherly mentorship of Uchenna, more girls are taking interest, learning and earning in technology. It is now a ‘cool’ thing to be a woman in tech. Her mentorship goes further to sustain these interests, as well as provide the knowledge and skills to practise.
When asked the motive and drive behind her foundation, the change maker and mother, says, “the motive is to be able to reach out to that girl at the corner of the street or the girl that is hard to reach, and to also fulfil my own dream of hoping and praying for someone to get me. I remember growing up, there were a lot of things I desired and wanted, but there was no means to get them. Knowing what I know today, there are so many young girls like me out there, sincerely. I know they are also praying for someone to come and give them opportunity to become and to also share resources that will help them.
The beauty of this is that the result may not be now, but these young girls/children would wake up one day and remember that someone arrived at their point of need, shared resources and experiences and was there to mentor and give them things that would be valuable for them, especially in this world of technology. So, the programme is actually saying that I am trying to live out the life that I want in young people, because I didn’t have that chance. I want to give back and see smiles on someone’s face- knowing that the person wouldn’t have had the chance ordinarily if I didn’t show up for.”
Speaking about her foundation’s latest cohort, where she trained 20-girls for a duration of six weeks, Uchenna explains, “it is beautiful knowing you are giving these young children skills that will help them advance in techie careers and even get them small jobs to do. Our curriculum isn’t just focused on technology, but also building self-confidence, time management and other soft skills that they need to survive. It is an intensive programme, because after six weeks, they will have to defend their project, which just means that they are going to talk about whatever they have learnt and build a project with it; so, it isn’t just about the theory but also understanding. We follow up with the girls, opening the hub for them to come in and learn new things that it has been so far; however, we are continuously seeking sponsorship, help and donations to reach out to more girls and communities. A day in her life currently is busy, balancing home with working from home and planning ahead. She unwinds by spending time with her children.”
She believes that the future of STEM in Nigeria is bright, as it concerns today’s girls who are the future mothers, noting, “but we are still 30 years behind in the STEM programmes. Other countries have gone so far.”
Apart from being a delightful advocate, she is also a mother to two young girls. She confirms that as a mother, there will be a lot of memorable moments especially with your children. Talking about her motherhood experience, she says,“as a mother, that comes in sequences, because your children’s things can happen at different occasions and it tends to be more joyful and replicate the same joy you or something entirely different happens in different contexts.
Every mother experience that joy when you have your first child; mine was 13 years ago. It was an amazing feeling of joy and happiness of even knowing that you are pregnant that can’t be replicated- this is one of my memorable times, another is watching them grow, seeing them doing well and also sharing a blissful bond with them.”
You wonder if, like Buchi Emecheta’s book, ‘The Joys of Motherhood’ reveals, whether there truly are joys considering today’s realities.
She explains, “of course, they are. Even if you mean the 21st century children or economic situation, I cannot see any reality that will stop a mother from being grateful, joyous and happy.
At every point of my being, I enjoy my motherhood. If it is the economic situation, we manage what we have and if it is about 21st century children, we try to adapt with them and see things from their view, but also bring your 70s or 80s style in; it is collaboration these days. So, for me, there is so much joy in motherhood, it doesn’t stop me from doing anything and I have nothing to regret. It is also about raising them right, looking at your own background and giving them your own background.”
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, her message to Nigerian mothers is, “try as much as possible to understand technology, especially, if you have children under five and above. These children are smart, knowledgeable and digital born. You have to get some digital skills, learn about computers and the internet, know the programs to align your children with and how to be safe online. Whether you are a career mom or stay-at-home mom, just know that learning takes place everywhere; so, find the time to love and take care of your children and make everyone happy. Enjoy those moments because very soon they will all grow up and leave the house so do not have regrets. The most important thing is your health and that of your children; take care of yourself, exercise, drink lots of water and pray hard for your family.”
Another manifestation of a woman in STEM is Renike Olusanya; a digital artist practising in the most unconventional way ever. In the spirit of what motherhood gives birth to, Renike is a fruit of motherhood and her journey in life is such that it will make a mother beam with joy.
Renike tells Guardian Life how her parent’s encouragement led her to the beautiful world of digital drawing topped with the resilient voices of struggling Nigerian mothers during the lockdown that steered her into creating a piece that didn’t only go viral, but also earned her a spot-on Vogue magazine.
“My childhood was like that of the average Nigerian child; however, instead of the scolding that comes with being a creative child, I got support and encouragement to explore the skills I was curious about. So, I was exposed to a lot from dancing to drawing, acting to painting, I was encouraged to do them all.”
She says, “but I don’t think I chose it as a career, I think it chose me; we found each other and decided to make it work. It is just something I find myself doing and being successful at it. I just decided to explore it as a career for now. It might change in the future and it might not but that is my reality right now.”
The inspiration for her famous piece, ‘She Will Not Be Silent’ came from Nigerians using their voices to speak and fight for others who went through tough times during the lockdown.
“My viral/bestseller piece is also the one that was featured in ‘Vogue’. It was inspired by Africans, especially Nigerians, and how they used their voices on social media to fight. It was my way of communicating appreciation for those mothers and also my way of joining my voice with theirs to create awareness towards how we were being treated in the pandemic.
Breaking more career frontiers, the digital artist created a lovely book cover for author Nicola Yoon’s ‘Instruction for Dancing’ after she was contacted on Instagram by the author’s management who liked her work. “The process was pretty straightforward and beautiful thanks to the brilliant people I worked with. I was reached out to because the author (Nicola) saw my work on Instagram, and she thought my art will be a perfect fit for her book and I am grateful for that opportunity. Then the art director reached out to me, and we started the process which involves sketching and colouring and it was finalised within a few months. It was published the following year.”
And even though Renike believes she’s much more than she has become, and since it’s Mother’s Day, mothers, like her, deserve all the applause they can get from everyone.
She also shares her thoughts on the best part of being an artist. She says, “I love that I can just think and imagine something in my head and bring it to life. That is the best thing about drawing and being an artist; the fact that you can have an idea and execute it whenever and wherever you want. I consider it a blessing and I am grateful to God for the blessing.”
Be you a #woman in STEM or not, all that matters is you, so as you celebrate your mothers, today. Don’t forget to also celebrate yourself, future mothers.
#Motherhood #Eyes #Uchenna #OnwuamaegbuUgwu #Renike #Olusanya