By Peter Adeshina
Every year on the 8th March, a mirror is held up to the world and it is forced to carry out introspection on how it treats women. The exercise is titled International Women’s Day.
It’s not entirely a somber affair. The special day is also marked by the celebration of successful women, often those who defy expectations and scale unique hurdles thrown in their path to make positive changes happen for themselves and society.
Their accomplishments, when celebrated in the open, serve to mock ignorant gender stereotypes and shames stubborn custodians of dated, repressive cultures that insist on shackling women. These high-flying women are powerful models of all that is possible; the gains society stands to benefit when women are empowered and supported.
In Nigeria’s Emmanuella Mayaki, the British BBC has found a proud and deserving model, and it is pulling no breaks in celebrating and bringing her norm-shattering achievements to global limelight.
She is only eleven, yet she has enthralled the world with her genius and sense of duty.
Emmanuella surpassed all expectations and existing conventions when, as a pre-teen, she built a functional website from scratch and displayed an astounding understanding of modern programming, a field that adults with years of training find extremely complex and oftentimes frustrating.
At 9, when her family briefly relocated to England from Nigeria, Emmanuella Mayaki stunned the UK’s schooling system with her computer proficiency and was in no time designated a student-teacher by the administrators of her school, the Southfields Primary School, Coventry, England, to tutor other students her age on advanced computer skills.
To be sure the import of this event is not lost on anyone, it is necessary to explicitly call it out. A black young girl, who has lived all her life in Nigeria, entered the UK as a seasoned computer guru and was found skilled enough to teach others in a white country. It’s no mean feat.
The knowledge of language is said to be the doorway of understanding, and Emmanuella Mayaki already speaks competently and artfully, the language of the interconnected world. As an aspiring machine learning engineer, she adeptly uses modern software such as Eclipse to bend the computer JAVA language to her will and create technological wonders.
HTML, CSS, among others are also areas where Emmanuella has made a name.
Yet her success is not only in the personal. She is now teaching other young girls, and boys, computer coding in a school she heads in Nigeria’s Federal Capital, Abuja, where she is expanding on her work in the United Kingdom.
The importance of this cannot be overemphasized.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an eye-opener on the many ways women remain disadvantaged in our societies. The lockdowns came with a spike in gender-based violence and deepened economic dependence. The calls for empowerment and financial freedom for women are louder.
Emmanuella Mayaki, at only 11, is showing the world useful ideas it can learn from. Not only is her coding school equipping young girls with in-demand skills that will seamlessly plug them into global opportunities and elevate them above the limiting factors of birthplace and circumstances. The school is also preparing them for the future of work.
The work-place has changed. Interviews are staged now on Zoom; work tasks are assigned on Slack; tasks are completed in front of screens; updates are provided on virtual rims of Google sheets. If the girls must stand a chance, investments must be made into their training. Emmanuella has made this her life’s work.
And so the BBC, as does the rest of the world, finds her worthy of honor and celebration on an important day like today. It will air a series centered on her life and accomplishments aptly titled “Coding Genuis” on its CBBC channel at 8.15 am (GMT).
It is a must-watch for everyone, even more so the leaders of government. Emmanuella makes an eloquent argument on the importance of educating and supporting the girl-child. She is a joy to behold, a source of national pride.