Featured Storyteller

NIGERIA: Technology Gave Us a Platform to Speak. Now, We Need To Build It Too.

Mary Ero
Posted April 21, 2021 from Nigeria

In Nigeria, technology has created a feminist revolution. Mary Ero not only joined the movement, but joined the tech industry.

“Women are using the internet, social media, and online documentation to rewrite our country’s narrative.

I have seen the difference technology has made for Nigerian women in the fight against patriarchy and gender discrimination.

Nigeria has for many years brandished patriarchy almost like a badge of honor. It was commonplace growing up to experience sexual harassment and discrimination by random men on the streets. I remember going to a book fair with my mother at age 10 or 11 and feeling the weight of a man’s pelvis against me as we stood in the crowd.

When I was a teenager, bus drivers attempted to grab us at bus stops on our way to the park. If the victim spoke up, she was met with a chorus of ‘ashawo,’ the local term for prostitute.

There was no safe place in our institutions or even in our own homes. My friends and I would rant in private about how disrespected we felt by yet another man, our parents, or relatives. But nothing seemed to change. Then technology gave us a platform to speak out.

The past decade was a tipping point. We witnessed the 2014 #ChildNotBride campaign that sought to eradicate child marriages in Nigeria. Amid heightened rates of gender-based violence and discrimination, Nigerian women amplified their grievances through protests driven by online hashtags such as #FemaleInNigeria, #ArewaMeToo DontTouchMe, and more recently, #EndSARS.

While some may argue this change has not cut through Nigeria’s deep-seated traditional customs and ideals, there is no doubt that it is significant. Women are using the internet, social media, and online documentation to rewrite our country’s narrative. Nigerian authorities and lawmakers have begun to treat rape, domestic violence, and gender-based violence more seriously.

At the beginning of 2020, I decided to make a gargantuan leap to become a part of the tech industry that has made so much possible for Nigerian women. At age 42, with a young child and an almost two-year unemployment gap, I made my foray into UI/UX design—a somewhat dramatic departure from my media and communications background.

I earned two certifications in UI/UX design and became knowledgeable in a field I previously found daunting. I did this all through online study without paying anything more than the cost of my internet service. This is a big deal for me, and a win for my country.

A career in technology affords me an income and career longevity. It also provides me the skills necessary to escalate my Nigerian sisters’ pleas for change beyond our immediate community. I intend to create a women-centered frontend development agency that gives back by training and supporting women.

Through my work, I’ve learned how we can break technology barriers for women. We must empower women to be makers and users of technology and allow more women to use these tools.

The first step to create an accessible digital space for women is to provide affordable internet access. In 2019, the global gender gap between male and female internet users increased by about 17 percent due to increased male users in developing countries.

Forbes estimates 1GB of data costs $2.22 in my country, the same country where more than 40 percent of the population live on less than $1 per day. The socio-cultural climate ensures the economics are automatically skewed against women.

A solution is to create heavily subsidized workspaces for working women in urban areas and free internet cafes for non-working women or those in rural areas.

We need more women working in tech. I say this knowing the many incubators and accelerator programs aimed at bringing women into STEM careers. These programs’ shortcoming is that they usually seek young candidates with exceptional academic abilities. Another way is to have more women in high-powered, well-paid positions. We need to bring women to the decision table to share their expertise and raise our concerns.

Finally, for all the progress and attention women garner with different hashtags, campaigns, and movements, we are still working in silos with no concerted action. We need to find a way to aggregate all our efforts online by region, continent, or other alliances.

Let’s unite together using the tools available to us, the tools that connect us across borders—the tools that we must transform by being a part of their development.


SheTransformsTech

This story was published as part of World Pulse's SheTransformsTech Campaign and is included in the #SheTransformsTech final report. Download the report to find out what grassroots women and gender-diverse individuals from 60+ countries say individuals, policymakers, and tech companies must do to make tech equitable for all.

Comments 41

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Patricia Cogley
Apr 21
Apr 21

Hi Mary. Thank you for your inspiring story. I love the urgency of your vision for Nigeria. I agree with this 100%- "Another way is to have more women in high-powered, well-paid positions. We need to bring women to the decision table to share their expertise and raise our concerns."

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

Thank you Patricia

Beth Lacey
Apr 21
Apr 21

Your vision is very compelling. I believe your strategy and approach are the right ones. Good luck!

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

I am happy you think so, Beth.
Thank you.

christinactan
Apr 21
Apr 21

Thank you Mary for your story and for leading the way in using technology and tools associated with technology to empower women and for advocating for accessible and safe digital spaces for women.

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

Thanks for this comment.

Nini Mappo
Apr 22
Apr 22

Congratulations for having your story selected, Mary! This is such hopeful news for Nigeria and our Ebony continent. You are an inspiration that we can always challenge ourselves and thrive where we had been scared to venture. Good on you sister! Keep winning.

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

Wow! Such kind words!

Thank you so much.

Fanka
Apr 22
Apr 22

Hello dear sister,
Congratulation. Women needs to be digital for positive productivity.

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

We do.

Thank you.

shelbybennett456
Apr 22
Apr 22

Thank you for sharing your story! I am so inspired by your courage to make a career change and the fact that you are using your experience to push for further change.

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

I am honoured to be a source of inspiration for you.

Thanks

Kabraham
Apr 22
Apr 22

Thank you for sharing your story Mary! It's heartbreaking to believe that women in Nigeria still struggle with sexual harassment like this especially young kids. I am hopeful that your efforts will contribute to a positive change and Im very inspired by your efforts. Good luck!

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

It is really tragic and frustrating at the same time. We can only continue to keep up the fight.

Thank you.

Olutosin
Apr 22
Apr 22

Technology is Transformation. Thank you very much for sharing our story. Its the same in developing countries.

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

It is, isn't it?

Thanks for the comment.

Jill Langhus
Apr 23
Apr 23

Hello, Dear, Mary,

How are you doing, dear? Congrats on all your hard work, and for being a Featured Storyteller, too!! XX

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

Hey Jill

I have been a bit I'll and out of it. That is why I am responding to comments so late. But I am here now.

Thanks as always for being such a wonderful, caring person.

Jill Langhus
Jul 23
Jul 23

Hello there:-)

How are you doing? It's okay. So much going on now in people's lives.

You're very welcome, dear.

Hope you have a good weekend, dear. XX

Susu Mohamed
Apr 25
Apr 25

Dear Mary,

Congratulations on the story award mashaa allah keep up posting stores and share us .your vision will will impact more community.
Best regards
Suu

Mary Ero
Jul 22
Jul 22

Thank you, Susu.

Blessings.

Alicia LaFemina
Apr 28
Apr 28

Mary,

Thank you for sharing your story and the experiences of the women in your community! You are doing incredible things and teaching us the true meaning of using technology for good.

Geo
Apr 28
Apr 28

Hi Mary!
Thank you for sharing your story and looking for ways to help others. I heard once, "you can't be, what you can't see", and you're leading by example and showing others it's possible to gain these skills.

LSpeaksLife
Apr 28
Apr 28

I applaud your courage! Thank you for sharing your story, the research, and your strategy to drive technology for women in Nigeria. I work for Salesforce - one of the largest technology companies in the world. We offer free business and technology training through Salesforce Trailhead - https://trailhead.salesforce.com. Please feel free to share the link with the ladies in your community!

mjuricic
Apr 28
Apr 28

thank you for inspiring other women, your story shows how much you as a strong human being and a warrior, a very nice to know that in the world there are people like you, Happiness

TonyaH
Apr 28
Apr 28

Thanks for sharing your story and perspective.

hcampuzano
Apr 29
Apr 29

such an ispiring story which is valuable all around the world thanks for sharing

Fabiola Lisiero
Apr 29
Apr 29

Hello Mary, thanks for sharing this inspiring story and please don't give up. I know there is still a long way to go, but remember that this path starts with the first step! Good luck!

noemi.hdz.gro
Apr 29
Apr 29

Mary! Thank you for sharing your story, it was truly inspiring!

Tamarack Verrall
Apr 29
Apr 29

Dear Mary,
"This is a big deal for me, and a win for my country". Your strong voice is a win for your country. I love your message that We need to find a way to aggregate all our efforts online by region, continent, or other alliances. What an inspiration you are, for us to dig deep together to use tech for the changes we are working for.

E Barker
Apr 29
Apr 29

Loved this story, Mary. You are a true leader of change and inspiration for women across the globe to move into STEM

Ilemmens
Apr 29
Apr 29

Hi Mary, you’re story is amazing!! Thank you for sharing and inspring us!

Vasanth Ayothiraman
Apr 30
Apr 30

Thank you Mary for sharing your story, it's truly inspiring.
Very glad to see you leading the way using Technology.
Powerful words, Let’s unite together using the tools available to us.
Please keep continuing this great work.

Emilywc
Apr 30
Apr 30

You raise so many valuable points and lessons to learn, good luck in your future, I see you doing great things. Thank you for sharing your story.

jpalapuz
Apr 30
Apr 30

Technology as a conduit for change- love that we can use it as a platform to amplify women's voices . Thank you for sharing, Mary!

karina lima
May 01
May 01

Super inspiring story congratulations!!!

Nari
May 01
May 01

Thank you for sharing your story, it was truly inspiring.

charlenegailtaruwona

Dear Mary,
Your story is very inspiring. Congratulations for being featured.

Olatoun Williams
May 05
May 05

I am so proud of you, your vision and aspirations for women in Nigeria. I was born in Lagos Nigeria and did my youthful life in Nigeria and so I resonate with you on all the issues discussed in this article. The patriarchy tendencies and gender discrimination are endemic in that society. The culture, tradition and even religious beliefs also condone these vices. However, many women should be encouraged to speak up and use technology more to their advantages. It has been proven that women play significant role in nation building and such they need to be given the tools to excel. Technology is a vital tool to propagate all their efforts to develop. Thank you for this well-scripted article that also proffer good solutions. Kudos.

SEZ
May 20
May 20

Hi Mary, That is exactly what we as women should do in order to help our society to be a better place for women. It is not only your country but we have a lot in the world that try to just shout down women to avoid seeing their power. It is our duty to empower ourselves and help each other

Mahima Rathore
Jul 22
Jul 22

Hi mary
very inspiring story .I can relate with each sentence. its very important to empower women to use technology so they can change their lives and raise their voice.
Love ❤