Policy was not boring at Tech Women Africa 2018

Taking a selfie with Nanu on Day Three or Four of the Tech Women Africa Summit at Labadi Beach in Oct 2018

First of all, this post is one year overdue. Thankfully I still remember the event like it was yesterday. Policy is most certainly not boring 😊 how can they be? They shape our lives and societies making sure we live fairly and without oppression.

The first time I heard this phrase was at the Tech Women Africa summit for women and girls in technology that took place at Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, October 2018. My next encounter with Policy Education was at the Nigerian School of Internet Governance fellowship programme that took place few months ago this year 2019.

I had just come back from WordCamp Mombasa (a little over a month) where I spoke on WordPress being the easiest tool to get into Tech, when I got a mail invite that I was accepted to participate in the Tech Women Africa Summit event slated for October 15 – 20th 2018. This was to be the first event for women I would attend and I was already excited at the thought of meeting so many women in tech from diverse backgrounds. It was not my first time meeting Olamide though, she is a member of the WordPress community in Lagos likewise. She runs a vlog where she inspires, interviews other women, teaches digital skills, and curates valuable event recaps, you should subscribe here.

Mary, Olamide and Nanu on Day One at the #TechWomenAfrica Summit in Labadi Beach 2018
Mary, Olamide and Nanu on Day One at the #TechWomenAfrica Summit in Labadi Beach 2018

Coming from my days at our WordPress events in Lagos where the ratio of male to female was usually 15:1, this was a big deal for me and I had no plans to miss it. I wouldn’t call myself unlucky because I didn’t get funded for the trip as some others did, and I wasn’t about to let that hinder me, even though my previous Nairobi trip had made me cash strapped. I just kept thinking of all the women I was about to meet.

Mary on her way to Accra GH for Tech Women Africa 2018
Mary on her way to Accra GH for Tech Women Africa 2018

So I journeyed to Lagos to take the GUO bus to Ghana from Ojuelegba, I had booked the previous evening which is advisable and got the first vehicle which was a Toyota Sienna. My seat was directly behind the driver, who turned out to be one of those rare down to earth humans we meet every once a while, though the trip was long due to the horrible roads we had to pass up to the border, everyone of us in the vehicle became friends and chatted away.

I was staying with a friend I made in Ghana during my MIRM Internship, one whom I hadn’t seen since I left in 2015, this was double excitement for me. We arrived Tema at about 6.30pm that evening, central Accra town was still 20 minutes drive away. I settled in and was eager to open my eyes and be at Labadi the next morning. So much that I got there earlier than the event was to begin, sat at the bar and made friends with other early birds like myself.

Mary making friends at the Labadi Beach Hotel in the early hours of the Tech Women Africa Summit 2018
Mary making friends at the Labadi Beach Hotel in the early hours of the Tech Women Africa Summit 2018

By the time we began, I had made quite some friends. I’m the kind of person that seats at the back of the class because I like to observe, but this time, I took a seat at the front left row, equally a great spot for observing the crowd, but better view of what took place at the top. Needless to say, day one was amazing. There were transcribers for each participant and translators did their best to make sure no one missed a thing.

In one room, we had women from English, French, Portuguese and other language speaking countries.

Is it okay to be a Tech Woman who is stinking rich? @Nnenna asked panel members on ‘Women on the Web’ at the #TechWomenAfrica Summit. What’s your take on that?

If you ask me, that should not even be up for discussion in this century, but we did discuss it. So what value did I gain from being a part of the event, allow me share some tiny bits. To see the full lessons and learnings, see my live tweet thread here from the event.

  • I met a woman of great repute, Nnenna, one I had been looking forward to meet ever since I discovered her and her works. She happens to be one of the World’s 100 most influential people in Digital Government!
  • I learnt about making an effort to communicate in our own language on our blogs. I am a little bit torn about this because I am more fluent in English than my own native language (Yoruba). When foreigners wonder, how come we speak English so easily, I just tell them it’s because it’s the language of instruction in our schools, asides being our official Language. I have been speaking it since kindergarten *sighs*!
  • Chantal Nare explained that making money without a vision is useless. I completely agree with her. What would you do if you had a one billion dollar right now? Tell me, in the comments!
  • Jama Jack talked about discovering what our relationship with money is. What does money mean to you? What does being rich mean to you?
Mary and Nnenna
Mary and Nnenna

During coffee breaks, a lot of networking took place. This was equally special for me because it was the first time also since we founded How Do You Tech that I would have to talk about what I did and what the company was about. I considered my actions my first pitch, and girl, it didn’t go well at all, I struggled to make my point, I couldn’t explain what the company did, I failed and I was happy I did.

Mary taking a shot outside during a break period at the Tech Women Africa Summit 2018
Mary taking a shot outside during a break period at the Tech Women Africa Summit 2018

You know why? Because it made me better, it made me question my work, it’s been a year down the line and I can tell you boldly that I’m not there yet, but I have more clarity on what problem the company seeks to solve.

I remember one moment while talking to this lady who seemed to get what I was saying and wanted to check out the company’s website, and she kept getting ‘an error that the site could not be reached’.

I told her to give me some minutes to see what the problem was, as I had 99.9% faith in the hosting company I use for @HowDoYouTech which is @Namecheap.

Guess what the problem was? The company domain had expired and I had missed acting on the numerous reminders sent by @Namecheap. Oh my, I was so embarrassed. I often like to refer to myself as an unofficial @namecheap ambassador.

Remember I mentioned at the beginning of this story that I was low on cash already. I reached out to a friend who bailed me out that instant and I renewed the domain name. This was on day three out of the five day event. Things got worse when I woke up on day four and my purse was missing. I must have misplaced it in the cab I took home the previous night 🙆

I was distraught. I was supposed to go to the park to book my trip back home on day four during lunch break. I could not because I didn’t have the cash or any bank card.

I reached out to my techie sister from another mother who makes pleasant natural oil perfumes by the way, she went to the GUO park in Ojuelegba and bought my return ticket from there. A new friend from Liberia I met at the event also invited me to spend the last night with her, as the hotel was in town and closer to the park for me. I woke up 4.30am in the morning on departure day, got ready and booked an Uber to get me to the park, thankfully my physical card missing did not hinder transactions on my card except if I had blocked it. So I could still do a card trip on Uber.

Also at the GUO park, I had to pay another 2k (in naira, thanks to internet banking) to the driver’s account before I boarded for what they call virgin passport. This is just one of many reasons why I’m an advocate of Tech4Good. If there’s a problem with a tech tool, check the human behind it, not the #tech.

A virgin passport in this regards means you have never travelled by road on that route previously, even if you have gone by air to a thousand countries, it does not matter, your passport is still considered virgin. Does anyone understand this concept or heard of it before? Please share in the comments because I do not.

I felt a lot of joy to have been part of the one week event. The journey back home was longer, thanks again to the heavily damaged Badagry expressway which I understand has become worse than it was last year. However, I had fun on that trip. Everyday, I learn to become a better person, being in places with like minded supportive people, adds to my goals of being a better me.

I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me through my story? And hopefully learnt a thing or two about life, friends, like-minded humans and policies as well. If you did, I would love to read from you in the comment section. After-all, sharing is caring right?

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