Irene Mbari- Kirika is the Executive Director at inABLE.org, a NGO that empowers the blind and visually impaired students in Africa through computer assistive technology. Recognized as a dynamic, global strategic leader and an executive-level innovator who has created technology-powered special-educational environments to positively affect the lives of blind, visually-impaired, and multi-disability youths in Africa. She is also a sought-after consultant and public speaker who has collaborated on training, evaluation, research, and policy projects with the World Bank, the government of Kenya, multiple international universities, and many global corporations.
Irene has been a featured speaker at several high-profile educational events, including the UNESCO Mobile Learning week in Paris and ICT Connected Summit in Kenya, as well as an invited participant at the Zero Project Conference 2020 held at the Vienna headquarters of the United Nations in Austria, and TechShare Pro 2019, which took place at Google UK headquarters in London England.
As the Executive Director at inABLE.org, Irene Mbari- Kirika has researched, developed, and executed the organization’s accessibility of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy, and has led and facilitated discussions on best practices in the accessibility space and international nonprofit operations. She has championed initiatives related to global policy, advocacy, and international development.
She has also co-authored research reports- A Comprehensive Report on the Nationwide Baseline Survey of Technology Skills for Learners with Vision Impairment in Kenya by the Georgia Institute of Technology – and A Computer Training Program for the Schools for the Blind in Kenya published by the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research.
Irene holds a Business Management degree from Kennesaw State University in Georgia and a Global Master’s of Arts (GMAP) in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA.
Impact & Philanthropy
The inspiration for inABLE began when Irene attended a reading day at the Kenya National Library. A group of students who were extremely competitive, smart, and outgoing captured her attention. This group stood out in the reading challenge for the day.Yet, to her astonishment, Irene learned these students were all blind or low vision.When she inquired about these youths and learned that they were from a nearby blind school that had a shortage of Braille books and paper and without access to computers and the Internet.
This disparity in education sparked an urgent drive to connect these students to the rest of the world by destroying the barriers to communication and employment. The inABLE organization can truly be described as “visionary,” because its mission is to empower blind and visually impaired students in Africa through technology. From the very beginning, inABLE has watched blind and visually impaired primary and secondary students transform as they learned how to access online educational resources, research homework assignments, communicate with new friends worldwide, use social media, host blogs and develop employable skills, such as JAVA programming and HTML website design.
What is unique is that the inABLE computer lab is a complete technological solution that removes barriers to learning with an innovative educational platform that promotes information computer technology as an integral classroom tool. With assistive-technology computer skills, students gain independence to use multiple devices, access eBooks and online educational resources, real time news and the ability to communicate and interact with the rest of the world.
Over the last 10 years, inABLE has set up eight computer assistive technology labs at special schools for the blind across Kenya and enrolled more than 8,000 students. inABLE’s programmes are designed to have the following lasting and transformative impact on the lives of beneficiaries:
- Bridging the gap between the blind and sighted in Kenya through technology. Our graduates will be able to seek lucrative employment in fields that would otherwise be completely closed to them.
- Contribute to increased feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, and independence for our graduates.
- Societal transformation where blind children are viewed as assets to their families rather than liabilities, which will in turn result in more families believing in and investing in the children’s future.
- Transformation of social attitudes toward the blind and visually impaired as they begin to be seen as productive members of society.
- Augmenting the Africa’s workforce with highly trained and highly motivated blind contributors.
- Engage in policy change related to digital accessibility to ensure everyone has access to information on the Internet, including people with disabilities.
Additionally, Irene has led inABLE to a position of leadership in inclusive tech in education, accessible computer skills training, and assistive technology research by forging foundational relationships with charitable partners, foundations, and global technology leaders, including Safaricom Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Google, Mastercard Foundation and many more.
While working through inABLE’s start-up and growth, Irene Mbari- Kirika grasped another critical factor which lead to the establishment of Irene’s most recent venture Technoprise Consulting. Technoprise promotes inclusive technologies as well as hiring of people with disabilities in the tech industry. Its primary goal complements inABLE’s — increasing employment of persons with disabilities in the tech industry in Africa, while providing digital accessibility services to public and private sector clients around the world.
During the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, Irene had to pivot and launch the Inclusive Africa Conference as an online event next fall- Inclusive Africa. Without missing a beat, Irene gathered global leaders in inclusive education, design, and employment to participate in the Inclusive Design Africa monthly webinar series, including a Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) program – Inclusive Africa Webinar.
In recognition of her many accomplishments, Irene Mbari- Kirika has received both The Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) in 2016 and the Humanitarian Award, Kenyan Diaspora Advisory Council of Georgia in 2013.
African Women in GIS (AWiGIS)- Our Story
African Women in GIS (AWiGIS) is a community of African women around the world who either study, work or are interested in the geospatial industry. This community was borne out of the desire of two young women, Cyhana Williams from Ghana and Chidimma Umeogu from Nigeria, to create an association that fostered community and encouraged other African women to pursue GIS careers. They also sought to display the application prospects of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) field for Africa.
The community’s major objective is to create a forum that gives women of African descent (whether living in Africa or in the diaspora) the freedom to create connections, gain mentors, learn new skills, access education in GIS-related schools as well as job-related advice and opportunities.
The African Women in GIS community first started out as two separate country groups. Chidimma created her group on 29th July, 2017 for Women in GIS- Nigeria whiles Cyhana formed hers in April, 2019 called Women in GIS – Ghana. Together, these groups had members who were students and workers in the GIS field. It was a little tough garnering women in Ghana since the visibility and awareness of GIS was low. Thus, some students especially women who studied GIS in their undergraduate studies switched to a different career path after graduation due to the difficulty in getting a sustainable GIS job.
In June 2019, Chidimma and Cyhana met on LinkedIn and discussed their efforts in creating platforms for women in their individual countries. This led to a conversation of collaboration and increasing the group coverage to pan the entire African continent. Hence, the genesis of the African Women in GIS community on October 2019. It started out with forty-one (41) Nigerian members, a member from Burkina Faso and eleven (11) Ghanaian members. Nigeria is the group’s headquarters country with Ghana as the second.
Members were encouraged to invite other women with the same interests or practice to join the group. The founders researched and reached out to women on LinkedIn who were in the same field. As time went on, members became acquainted with one another and shared their views on how the community should progress with their ideas for activities. Connections groomed and the group became larger.
In January 2020, the African Women in GIS was introduced to the rest of the world. It launched its social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and used these platforms to reach out to more women. The platform also highlights the profiles of members in order to motivate other women who are practicing, studying or just enthusiastic about GIS. By the end of January 2020, AWiGIS had reached about one thousand (1,000) followers on LinkedIn and two hundred (200) followers on Twitter with over one hundred (100) members in its member group.
By February of 2020, the founders engaged a few members of the group as volunteers as well as a secretary who assist in the task of creating content and planning group activities in order to improve the member and public engagement. In May 2020, AWiGIS gained about 2,500 followers on LinkedIn with almost 200 active members from Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia , Kenya Cameroon and the Diaspora. It also launched its membership transition to Slack where a variety of channels for members to discuss, share relevant information and host tutorial activities operates efficiently. Although membership is strictly for women, other activities are open to the public.
In all enthusiasm and excitement, we have a number of activities planned out for the next few months as well as into the future. Members of the community proposed some activities whilst others were opportunities gotten from key individuals and organizations who reached out to the community.
For starters, AWiGIS has an upcoming volunteering project with Ibisa Network – an Organization that aims to aid small-scale farmers with satellite images of their farms to help them get insurance covers. The community collaborates with Ibisa Network by providing the AWiGIS members a volunteering opportunity with Ibisa where they will be assessing satellite images of farmlands. Through this volunteering project, the members get to add this work experience to their CVs as well as other incentives.
After the pandemic, AWiGIS plans to encourage the members to host outreach programs to schools and other groups. There, the members will help educate students about GIS and show them some impressive visualizations of GIS application as well as some roles of this technology in the real world. In addition, the official AWiGIS website will be launched and it will serve as a platform to display African GIS applications. It will also be a job recruitment site for geospatial roles in Africa.
We are excited about the various plans we have in place for the community, Africa and for the world at large. Follow us, join us and view the geospatial world through the eyes of African Women.
Author: Esther Moore
The Coca-Cola System and The Coca-Cola Foundation commit $17m to fight COVID-19 in Africa
Helping those most vulnerable, preventing the spread of the virus and contributing to the recovery of local economies
Across Africa and in partnership with NGOs, Coca-Cola in Africa, and its bottling partners (the “Coca-Cola System”) and The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF), have been deploying a range of resources, including capabilities, funds and products to support governments, communities and local economies in their urgent efforts to contain the spread and impact of the Coronavirus since its outbreak on the continent.
The Coca-Cola System is committing US$13million to support the continent through the various phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) has granted just under $4 million to international and local NGOs, such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Amref Health to procure and distribute personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other critical needs for frontline workers and to help fund ICU-enabled ambulances for example in Mauritius and Madagascar.
The Coca-Cola system also donated to National Solidarity Funds in South Africa, Morocco and Djibouti and additional funds were allocated to boost awareness and mobilization to help stem infections in vulnerable communities across several countries.
In addition to suspending all commercial advertising of its brands and deploying its marketing and trade assets, including social media channels, product labels and point-of-sale materials, to amplify COVID-19 messaging, the Coca-Cola System is providing funding and other forms of support to help bolster the micro, small and medium enterprises in the retail, hospitality and recycling sectors, who have been among the hardest hit businesses across countries.
Coca-Cola company is also working with some NGOs and social enterprises, including Givefood.ng in Nigeria, Gift of the Givers in South Africa and National Disaster Management agencies to provide food parcels for vulnerable families whose livelihood has been disrupted by the lockdown and other restrictions.
Coca-Cola’s bottling partners on the continent, on their part, are making significant contributions to the fight against the pandemic throgh a variety of interventions, including lending their distribution capability to help deliver medical supplies, food parcels, 3-D printed face masks and other PPE as well as donating cash, beverage products and food items.
In response to the critical need for the hand sanitizer, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Uganda and Ethiopia, Bralima in DRC, Les Brasseries du Congo in Congo, and Nigerian Bottling Company in Nigeria have deployed their technical expertise and facilities to produce over 30,000 litres of alcoholic sanitizer in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standard which were distributed to governments and vulnerable communities free of charge.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to all those impacted by this virus and their families. We are leveraging on the experience and capabilities the Coca-Cola System has built in over 90 years of serving consumers and making a difference across Africa, in the planning and deployment of our resources to effectively support governments in the efforts to contain the spread, support vulnerable communities and get local economies back up and running,” explains Bruno Pietracci, President of Africa & Middle East for The Coca-Cola Company.
In some countries such as in Eswatini, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe, Coca-Cola in Africa provided its marketing expertise either directly or through its partnership with Project Last Mile, to support Ministries of Health simplify and amplify health and safety messages. Additionally, in Egypt, Coca-Cola decorated its bottles with messages of gratitude and appreciation to every doctor in the country’s “white army”.
The Coca-Cola system has leveraged its years of experience in water access, sanitation and hygiene through the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) to develop unique emergency hand-washing stations (some foot operated, some using jerrycans), which are now set up in high traffic areas, border points and in vulnerable communities.
“The Coca-Cola system has been through many global crises during our 134 year’s history. Making a positive difference during times of crisis is in our DNA. We are in this together with our communities. Going forward, supporting micro and small businesses who are the fabric of our communities and the backbone to Africa’s resilience, will be a key priority for us,” added Pietracci.
Issued by Coca-Cola
The ELMA Group of Foundations Commits ZAR 2 Billion to COVID-19 Response in Africa
Unjani Clinics in South Africa received their shipment of much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for their nurses and staff, made possible with support from The ELMA South Africa Foundation (Pic credit: Unjani Clinics)
CAPE TOWN, South Africa- The ELMA Group of Foundations has announced a commitment of ZAR 2 billion to respond to COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on under-resourced and vulnerable communities in Africa. A minimum of ZAR 500 million of this commitment is for South Africa, and includes an immediate contribution by The ELMA South Africa Foundation of ZAR 250 million to The South African Solidarity Response Fund. The remaining ZAR 250 million will be used to fund a wide range of projects to mitigate the country-wide effects of COVID-19.
Bernadette Moffat, Exec. Dir.,The ELMA Philanthropies Services (Africa)(Pty) Ltd. and Chair of The ELMA South Africa Foundation, states, “ELMA has been investing in initiatives to improve the health, education, and well-being of children and the families and communities that support them since 2005. This new commitment to respond to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates our absolute commitment to Africa and to Africa’s children.”
Commenting on the donation to the South Africa Solidarity Response Fund, Nomkhita Nqweni, CEO of the Solidarity Fund said, “We wish to extend our gratitude to The ELMA South Africa Foundation for the spirit of partnership they have displayed in working with us towards bolstering South Africa’s resilience against the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration and partnerships such as this are testament to the possibilities that exist when we combine efforts.”
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In addition to the ZAR250 million donation to the South Africa Solidarity Response Fund, ELMA is collaborating with other funders and partners on a variety of COVID-19 response initiatives across the continent. One such initiative is supporting community health workers and community care workers as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Ensuring that these essential workers have sufficient personal protective equipment, food, access to testing, and psycho-social support is a priority if we are to overcome COVID-19.
As such, The ELMA South Africa Foundation is collaborating with The South African Solidarity Response Fund, The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, Johnson and Johnson, The Horace W Goldsmith Foundation, to support an initiative led by the DG Murray Trust to provide personal protective equipment and other critical support to more than 120,000 community care workers delivering crucial health and social services across South Africa.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis for the African continent and requires a momentous response if we are to recover from the devastation it has and will cause,” adds Moffat. “We must come together in solidarity, especially those with means, so that Africa can overcome and rebuild. ELMA is proud to combine forces with other philanthropists, governments, and civil society organizations who are taking bold actions against COVID-19.”