Farida Bedwei: a modern superheroine to beat all others

The software pioneer, promoter of education for girls and disability rights campaigner is in conversation with Kwaku Sakyi-Addo tonight on “Sunday Night”

Farida Bedwei has had a long journey to make a place for herself in the world and has unquestionably earned her place at the table. Her interest in computers started with a manual typewriter when she was a small child. Today, she is the chief technology officer of the software company that she co-founded.

Shortly after her birth in Lagos, Nigeria, she developed cerebral palsy, a product of rhesus incompatibility between her parents. The disorder is incurable.

Obliged to live a sheltered early life, she was home-schooled by her mother until the age of 12. Yet her neurological difficulty, which hampers her motor system, and therefore her movement and speech, has not stopped her from excelling in the hard sciences.

Mother mine

Farida credits her mother with instilling in her the confidence to live as if nothing was beyond her grasp. “She put her own life on hold to teach me how to be as independent as possible,” she says, and attributes her grit to the loving attention with which her mother taught her the skills she needed to learn and live as the Bedwei family moved from Lagos to Dominica and Grenada and then the UK, before returning to Ghana in 1988.

At 12, she entered a mainstream school in the state-run system. There was only one school in Accra that would accept her. She had already earned her first diploma in using computers that year – and has gone on to smash record after record.

After secondary school, aged 16, she did a one-year distance learning course in computing, focusing on data processing management, and immediately switched on to the challenge of software. She took a Bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK and then joined SOFT (later SOFTtribe) as a developer.

Promoting financial inclusion

Today Farida Bedwei is the chief technology officer for Logiciel (Ghana) Ltd, the software company that she co-founded. It promotes financial inclusion by developing cloud-based banking systems for the microfinance industry.

Her role involves monitoring changes in the industry and coming up with practical solutions which are easy to use by people with no formal training in banking.

She believes workers in the informal sector deserve the same banking services as those in the formal sector, and believes the microfinance industry is the key to helping them realise their business potential.

She has also worked in software for the telecommunications industry, developing services for mobile networks and content providers.

STEM supremo

Farida is both an author and a disability-rights advocate. She is the author of a memoir – The Definition of a Miracle. She is also the creator of Karmzah!, a comic book whose heroine is an archaeologist with a disability. She developed the character to encourage young people with disability to see past the obstacles life puts in their way.

She is an ardent advocate for girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as students with disabilities. She has also been named a National Youth Achiever and one of Africa’s most influential women in business, finance and governance.

The winner of many other awards for her work in computing and public service, she is a board member of the National Communications Authority. She is also an ambassador for Sharecare Ghana, a charity that raises awareness for people with autoimmune and neurological conditions.

Tune in to “Sunday Night” featuring Farida Bedwei on Asaase Radio tonight (30 August), starting at 7pm.
Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.
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