Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin is a Mid-Career MPA candidate and Edward S. Mason Fellow at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. She experienced the challenges vulnerable young girls from low-income communities face in getting an education. In 2014, Abisoye founded Pearls Africa, an NGO focused on promoting the cause and advancement of vulnerable young girls and women in Africa. By equipping them with functional digital skills and mentorship, these young girls are empowered with an agency to solve problems they are passionate about and placed on a path to economic independence. One of the beneficiaries of this program was featured on CNN having created an app to connect her Father and his fishermen friends directly to buyers, thereby cutting out the middlemen who stood to cannibalize their profit.
GirlsCoding, the flagship initiative of Pearls Africa has not only trained girls from the poorest slums in Nigeria but has also invited these young girls to become innovators using their newfound skill sets to solve problems they are familiar with. Today, these girls have started their own GirlsCoding clubs in their communities to share with their friends the same gift they have received.
Abisoye was named as one of the BBC 100 Women in the world in 2018. She also received the prestigious CNN Heroes Award in the same year for her work in gender equality through digital skills empowerment. As a Cheng Fellow, Abisoye will be working on scaling up the GirlsCoding program through new digital innovations, self-replicating training, and mentorship systems in the grassroots.