THEMBI MAGAJANA – Founder of Social Coding
“I thought my life would be corporate, you know, climbing that corporate ladder, I wanted to shatter the glass ceilings,” Thembi Magajana told FORBES AFRICA.
It all started on her niece’s birthday.
“I asked her what she wanted and she said she wanted to be Steve Jobs,” Magajana explains. “And I said, ‘okay, why do you want to be [him]?’ And she said ‘it’s not about him, but about what he’s able to do, being creative, being an innovator, I want to do the same things, so I need to learn how to code’.”
At the time, Magajana knew nothing about coding but had seen the hype around such startups.
“There was no clear path, particularly for women, on how to get there. When we look at founders, in particular, mainstream media showcases male founders only.
“And that wasn’t necessarily something that my niece, someone who’s of color, could relate to; she couldn’t look at them and be like, ‘one day, I can be that’,” Magajana says.
Social Coding became important for her so that she could create a space where young black girls could learn to code, and see themselves as being more than just “the background people” on global platforms and at the forefront of innovation.
Social Coding’s mission is to bring technology and digital education to rural communities by providing training programs and advocating for inclusion in areas of education and youth employment.
“I had just grown this passion to say how do we bring technology to people who are underrepresented, and don’t have the access that people in towns do,” Magajana says. “And that’s when the idea for kind of pivoting Social Coding’s original mission, which was initially creating a safe space for young black girls in tech, to ensure that we could use it as a tool for rural communities.
“It shocks me every time how far we’ve come,” Magajana says admitting that the challenges she faced as a startup were not easy. “I continue to face some of those challenges even now. First and foremost, I think what was important for me before even just trying to fundraise was advocacy, and shining a light on the work that we’re doing.
“As a woman, you tend to be perceived as very motherly and nurturing. Anything that you’re doing is ‘cute’, but it’s not necessarily something people should support. So getting people to not only support our vision for digital inclusion, but getting them to see the importance of it was also a bit of a challenge.”