Danai Nhando is a multi-talented human rights lawyer who has dedicated her career to fighting injustices.
Nhando is particularly passionate about the intersection between social justice and technology to ignite change. As the country director of Change.org, a Silicon Valley firm that helps people start campaigns and petitions aimed at driving solutions, Nhando is spearheading the strategy to grow Change.org in Africa. The organisation is the largest citizen-driven petition platform on the globe.
Nhando is using the same justice lens that made her a force to be reckoned with in court, to help Change.org build learning solutions that are accessed by millions. “One of the reasons I ventured into education from a career in law was because roughly 80% of the clients I used to work with were illiterate and of the ones who were illiterate, the majority were women.”
The journey to the top, while rewarding, has come with its fair share of challenges. “’I’ve always been very mindful that I’m a woman and I have to fight a bit. I’m the only girl in my family — I have two brothers. I was raised by a very strong mother who ingrained in me the belief that my voice matters.”
Upon venturing into the tech space, Nhando learnt to build a tenacity of character that went beyond her own personality — to ensure that what she wanted to say would be heard, and what she felt was important to be done, would be done. “I have learnt not to let feelings of inadequacy overwrite the fact that I am skilled and I need to be sitting at the table.”
This strength extends to how she carries herself and her womanhood in the workplace. “Whatever organisation I serve, I am always upfront about my family and children. If swimming is at three o’clock on a Thursday, then I cannot have a meeting at three o’clock on Thursday. I want to be in spaces where people understand that being a mother by no means affects the quality of what I produce. I can be strong and successful at work while being a present, loving mom and amazing wife in the process.”
Nhando encourages young girls and women to consider entering into typically male-dominated fields. “I want to see more young women venture into areas that look very daunting and to realise that they can take up those spaces and own them.” She is a firm believer that if an industry wants you to change who you are, it may not be the right place for you. “Women need to own their skills with grace and passion, and not allow the norms of society to determine who they become.”
Likewise, she encourages organisations to be more open-minded when it comes to their hiring process. “Organisations need to recruit for growth. And within these organisations, to build mentorship programmes that help candidates understand the potential of technology. We need more corporations to forgo limiting protocols and instead take on young people who are passionate, mission-driven and can grow into a role.”
I want to see more young women venture into areas that look very daunting, and to realise that they can take up these spaces and own them.