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Women in Tech 20 November 2015

Why I am passionate about my work with young Internet leaders

Leni Nazare
By Leni NazareAdministrative Coordinator, Internet Leadership

“I believe in the Gandhian principle. Unless any benefit reaches the last person, in the last village, in the last corner. And for me it would be that last little girl dressed in rags hoping for a future. When and if it [the Internet] reaches her, you will see its power to enable her to lift herself and her family out of poverty. THEN I will say that the Internet has arrived.”
– Usha Rani Vyasulu Reddy, an Internet Society Global INET Participant

As an Administrative Coordinator for the Internet Society’s Fellowship and Ambassadorship programmes, I work with exceptional young women from less developed communities around the world, and many of the women are my daughter’s age. Unlike most of their peers, these women somehow managed to get educated in their chosen field of technology or policy — and even do so in English!

When I look at the faces on their passports, I often wonder: Who noticed their talent and encouraged it? What sacrifices did their families make for them to get educated? What obstacles did they themselves have to overcome? Did they almost give up? What prompted them to keep on going?

I don’t know their stories. But I do know they must have stories. And I imagine that their stories and my own family’s story probably have much in common.

I come from a family that placed a high value on education, in part, because at times, it was the only thing they could count on. From early on, I can remember my mother saying “what you have in your head, no one can take away from you.” And given that my father and his family arrived as penniless refugees on the shores of the United States, I knew that losing everything could happen to anyone — including me.

Not surprisingly, I feel passionate about learning and believe that ALL people, no matter where they were born or how poor they are, deserve the opportunity to learn! Through our online platform, Inforum, and our experiential programmes, such as the Internet Society Fellowship to the IETF and Ambassadorship to IGF, we provide opportunities to learn about the Internet and engage with others. These opportunities benefit not only the student, but also their families, and their communities. And the benefit does not stop there.

Just like the Internet, we are all interconnected. Each and every person in this world can make a contribution — if given a chance — and that contribution has the potential to ripple throughout the world and affect each and every one of us.

My daughter was fortunate to be able to get a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. If she had been born to a family of humble means in Africa, Asia, or South America, I am glad to know she would still have had the opportunity to learn, grow, and make a positive difference in this world — with a little help from the Internet Society.

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To hear Usha Rani Vyasulu Reddy at Global INET 2012 comment about what she wishes and hopes for in the Future of the Internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jK1gQZSKow

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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