Each of the women featured in the New Realities films received Windows 10 Lenovo devices specifically to support their mission, such as the enterprise-grade ThinkPad X1 Yoga laptop for coding, or the Yoga C940 for music.
“I am learning Python with the help of this system – and I am enjoying learning,” says Doddalingappanavar, referring to her Lenovo IdeaPad D330 laptop. “It makes expanding my knowledge much easier. It makes presenting to my peers, teachers and students much easier. It is very user-friendly. Personally, I love it.”
Lenovo partnered with Girl Up (the gender equality initiative of the United Nation Foundation), award-winning American filmmaker and activist Ava DuVernay, One Young World and other nonprofit organizations to develop the stories and then to reach a wider global audience. Lenovo has also committed $100,000 in grant money and scholarships to help these young women pursue fields of study that align with their goals, and create opportunities for the next generation of budding “changemakers.”
One of the women profiled in New Realities, Kemi Dauda, leads a team of nine high school and college-age women in the nonprofit she founded as a college freshman in 2017, Bringing Hope Back Home (BHBH). Majoring in psychology and minoring in Afro American & African studies at the University of Michigan, she will be graduating this spring.
BHBH provides Detroit high school students with college prep resources. It initially began as summer workshops at Dauda’s high school, covering topics such as financial aid, SAT prep and essay writing. The group transitioned from in-person programming to virtual webinars and 1:1 video calls and started helping students outside of Detroit, hoping to be more helpful.
“I’m determined to give back to my community and it makes me proud, even though I’m just a small part of these students’ life,” says Dauda. “I see myself in them, and them in me. In this way, I’m helping students bridge the gap between their peers across the country.”
Dauda has had to cross big chasms most of her young life. Born in the U.S., she moved to Nigeria with her family when she was 7, then back to the U.S. when she was 12 – to start high school in a place that was no longer familiar to her.
“Learning a culture that I had once thought I knew, from scratch, is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was a pivotal moment in my ethnic, racial identity development. As a 7-year-old child, I was overwhelmed by the sudden change and new exposure to different cultures, languages and a new way of life. I eventually adapted and was able to truly embrace my Nigerian identity,” says Dauda, who thrived in the rigorous academic environment there.
Then the family returned to the U.S. five years later.
“Once again, I was a stranger in a place that I was supposed to call home. I felt so out of place. I was starting afresh with no friends or natural supports. It was definitely harder to come back,” she says.
After she graduates from college, Dauda plans to take professional development training pertaining to non-profits and leadership.
Others from the New Realities series are also pursuing more training in their chosen interests, with some hosting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workshops and teaching meditation to young women.
Mariann Avila was only 15 when she started School On The Road (SOTR), a nongovernmental organization that brings STEM activities and education to young people across Mexico. Now 21 and a college student in Monterrey, Mexico, she’s seen her organization evolve into a learning center, from college students building a non-profit to helping kids aged 7 to 15 writing their first “Hello world” – something Avila says is “a CS joke, nerds will get it 😂)!”
Her favorite activities with the group are coding with kids and making slime.
“I’m a huge nerd, but those who code can agree that you need a very creative mind to find easy ways to solve problems!” says Avila, whose own journey to becoming a data scientist started at a science fair, which is what SOTR feels like – a traveling type of fair. “Making slime is a simple yet messy experiment that shows kids a 101 scientific method; asking a question, experimenting, data and reaching a conclusion.”
She’s always been drawn to numbers.
“They are a universal language – and something I have found I’m good at,” she says. “When it comes to data – I know it’s not just about the numbers. You always hear about using data to sell things to people, but never about leveraging data to help them. I’ve now seen the way data and information can help people make better decisions.”
For her, the ThinkPad Lenovo gave her is “a supercomputer!” She adds, it’s helping her get closer to becoming a data scientist, which is her dream.
Avila has joined forces with her local Girl Up club to inspire her peers to focus on their education, taking part in an Instagram Live and a Girl Up panel.
Originally, plans for New Realities included in-person events across the world to encourage as many people as possible to view and experience the 360-degree VR films first-hand.
“Then the pandemic hit, which made us immediately rethink the entire project. Instead of in-person unveilings, we built a fully immersive virtual gallery and hosted a worldwide movie premiere across Asia, Europe and the Americas,” Bhatia says. “In addition to entirely shifting our event plans, our film crews also had to carefully monitor all critical safety protocols in each of the 10 markets our young changemakers lived in.”
In one case, the team decided it would be too risky to send a crew to film, so they delivered equipment to the woman and then trained her – remotely – to shoot her own film.
“By overcoming this obstacle, a shining creative moment emerged,” Bhatia says. “Ashwini, who lives in rural India and had no real experience with technology, was able to bring viewers into her world, on her own terms, resulting in an amazing, heartfelt film that gives viewers a chance to experience the world as she sees and lives it.”
“While the pandemic had us reconsider and adapt nearly every single part of our original project, New Realities’ mission of showing how smart technology can help to increase understanding and deepen our empathy became even more critical,” says Bhatia.
Check out all their other stories at the New Realities site.
Lead photo: Ashwini Doddalingappanavar working on content for her New Realities video. (Photo by Ramesh Hulageri)