A SWE Global Affiliate is a community of women engineers outside of the United States who wish to expand SWE’s mission of empowering women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion. While these shared goals and values unite SWE members from all over the world, each SWE Global Affiliate also has an original story and unique point of view.
SWE HQ is excited to spotlight the SWE Nairobi Affiliate, formed in January 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya. We spoke with Umi Kerre, Affiliate President, to learn about their activities and the importance of outreach.
How did you become involved with the SWE Affiliate?
I learned about SWE sometime in 2020 from a very good friend and I signed up shortly afterwards. I then reached out to a few other ladies and we started the SWE Nairobi Affiliate in the beginning of 2021. I am currently the Affiliate President.
How does your community benefit from having a SWE Affiliate?
We have been able to form a great network of wonderful women in engineering, both professionals and students (and it grows by the day). It is with this network that we are able to carry out various activities and events that are geared towards professional growth for women in various stages of their engineering career.
We are able to conduct outreach activities aimed at encouraging girls to take up STEM careers. There are mentors from this network who are more than glad to turn up for mentorship events and avail themselves when need arises. It is important for the girls to see women in engineering just being themselves and thriving at what they are doing. All these activities in effect also aid in introducing SWE to many more others out there.
What were some of SWE Nairobi’s successes and accomplishments during the first year as a SWE Affiliate?
I still remember our first event, we started on a high note. We held a webinar to mark International Women’s Day. We collaborated with a number of organizations, the Institution of Engineers of Kenya being our major partner in that event. The turnout was great (a very diverse group of people), about 300 participants, the speakers, even better. It was really encouraging. We got support from all corners, including other SWE members from across the continent.
Through more collaborations with other like minded organizations, we have been running a monthly series of webinars targeting university students. The webinars are on ‘Navigating Career Paths in Engineering.’ The collaborations help in increasing the reach and having a diversity of speakers and ideas.
SWE Nairobi also partnered with Girls for Girls (G4G) to offer mentorship (a 6 month program) to women who have recently graduated and have a few years experience in the field. 40 women signed up for the first cohort which started in December 2021.
Outreach is an important area of focus for us. Our first outreach event was held in September 2021. It was a Career Day for high school girls.
The girls in the school were excited to learn about SWENext and registered the first SWENext Club in the region, the Nova Pioneer Tatu Girls’ SWENext Club.
It was a busy year, but a good and impactful one too.
Can you describe one of your group’s typical meetings or events?
All our meetings are virtual and most of our events are virtual in nature as well. Our affiliate came into being during the pandemic, so we started on a virtual note. There are advantages to it, including ease in planning and greater reach. We make use of SWE’s Zoom account for these events. However, the virtual events work best for an adult target group.
A typical virtual meeting kicks off with people first talking about how they are fairing on. This is very important during these times. Then we go through our upcoming events and any other things that might be of interest. We also spend a bit of time discussing how we can grow our network and expand our reach. If we are able to wind up the official stuff early enough, we spend the remainder of the time getting to know one another a bit better.
Do you have advice for anyone looking to get involved with SWE?
I would advise them to do it as soon as possible, so they can experience the awesome community of women who have a lot to offer. There is a lot to do, and also a lot to learn. It is definitely worth it!