Hawa launches Africa’s First youth-led innovation Centre
Hawa Yokie, 22, is CEO of the Kamara Yokie Innovation Centre and is supporting young people from Sierra Leone to learb key tech skills to improve their future prospects.
“I want to bring young people together who have a passion for technology and innovation, [and are] looking for a community to develop their skills and become change makers,” says Hawa Yokie, CEO of the Kamara Yokie Innovation Centre and a former member of Plan International’s youth advisory panel.
Hawa, 22, grew up in the city of Kenema in Sierra Leone and has just opened Africa’s first youth-led innovation centre. Her plans are big – she wants to see Sierra Leone become a hub for innovation.
If it were up to her parents, Hawa would be studying finance. However, she has always been curious about technology and science. She would ask questions about what makes cars move, how computers run and what renewable energy is.
Few opportunities to learn about technology
Making use of a computer lab in her high school, she taught herself about different technologies that can help develop Sierra Leone. But something was missing – there was no space in Kenema to share ideas and experiences with peers. There was no one to talk to about her passion for robotics and science, and no role models to look up to.
So, Hawa took measures into her own hands, opening the first-of-its-kind, youth-owned and youth-led innovation centre in Africa.
The Kamara Yokie Innovation Centre aims to create a safe, multi-cultural space. Here, innovators, creative minds and problem solvers can come together to create solutions to pressing challenges. The centre uses 21st century entrepreneurial leadership and STEM education concepts to harness the untapped potential of young people.
Hawa’s path to innovation
What is it like to be a young woman in STEM? Hawa’s journey into STEM didn’t come without its challenges. Finding mentorship, overcoming traditional gender stereotypes, parental expectations and a lack of training in school were some of the barriers she had to face.
“When people see me doing solar installations and climbing on a roof, they will tell me this is something only guys can do. There is still this stereotype mindset that women cannot go into STEM,” says Hawa.
She convinced her parents of her passion for technology. In the same way, she is now advocating to reform the school curriculum in Sierra Leone so children, especially girls, can access STEM.
“The world is evolving and changing, it’s going more towards tech-based solutions, so Sierra Leone has to prepare the next generation,” she says.
With support from Plan International, Hawa was able to get equipment for the innovation centre. A 3D printer and tools for robotics training will enable her to expand her work. She is thankful to Plan International for being the first organisation to make a commitment to show concrete support. In the future, she is hoping for more capacity to deliver training for young people.
After launching her youth-led innovation centre, Hawa is looking hopefully to the future: “This is the place where ideas come to life to change Sierra Leone and Africa.”
Digital skills for everyone
Hear from Hawa by listening to Girls Tech Show, a podcast by Plan International.