Hildah Nyakwaka is an organizer and researcher working in Nairobi, Kenya, at the intersection of tech, social justice, and community impact. A long time Mozillian, Hildah has served as the regional coordinator for Mozilla Clubs for Women and Girls in Nairobi, as a mentor for the Open Leadership program, and as a facilitator at MozFest. Below, Hildah shares her MozFest story and experienced leading discussions about the opportunities and challenges facing women and the web.
Hildah also shares her inspiration for submitting a MozFest session and her tips for submitting a successful session proposal. This is great advice to revisit as you draft your own proposal for MozFest 2021!
We know her story will inspire you and we hope it sparks your own ideas about great sessions to propose for MozFest 2021!
Q: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you and MozFest find each other?
A: I am a community builder based in Nairobi working on all the cool things that intersect at tech, social justice and community impact. I work with different citizen groups and communities to understand how we can leverage on design thinking principles and the internet to build meaningful and impactful community initiatives. This is how I came across the Mozilla Community and by extension, MozFest.
The first time I attended MozFest was in 2016 but I’d applied the previous year to lead a design thinking session on learning circles, which was rejected sadly.
At the time when my session was accepted, I was leading Jamlab, a co-creation community in Nairobi as well as regional coordinator of Mozilla Clubs for women and girls across Nairobi.
Q: What inspired you to propose a session?
A: As I mentioned, I was regional coordinator of Mozilla Clubs for women and girls in Kenya at the time and had gained so much knowledge on how the more marginalized and underserved demographics in my region were facing different challenges (access, cultural barriers, literacy etc) when it comes to using the internet. So this particular experience had me wondering whether other women across the globe were going through the same thing. So I put through a hands-on session on how to create safe spaces for women to participate in community initiatives, where I was going to share my learnings but really I was more keen and curious on discovering what the other contexts represented were like.
Q: What was the call-for-proposals and session selection process like?
A: The CFP was pretty straightforward to me; it was not hard to understand what was required of me. The committee in charge of selecting sessions reached out to me to tell me the criteria used to select my session which also put into perspective what was required of me with this session, aside from my own expected outcomes.
I would say this is as a result of me being a native English speaker, I recognize that there are hundreds of people who have submitted sessions in English that were hard to understand and might have directly resulted in their session being rejected even when they had troves of knowledge the Mozilla community would benefit from. My one ask in this would probably be to bring in more translator volunteers that could help with non-English speakers and probably also have more non-European languages- based sessions or even sign language. That would be interesting for me personally to see develop.
Q: What’s your best advice for preparing a session?
A: Make it as interactive and informative as possible. You want people to connect to you and to what you bring to the table. Think of yourself as a participant in your own session and think through what you would have wanted to learn. If possible, find someone from the global community with the same ideas to collaborate on a session with, it makes it all much funner and more impactful.
Q: How did you prepare for MozFest? How did your Wranglers help? What was facilitator coaching like?
A: I did a lot of research into what I was going to discuss just to get a deeper understanding of how other people in the world worked around the issue I was presenting. I got sticky notes and flip charts as well as encouraging emails from the Web Literacy wranglers at the time on how to make the best of my session. In 2016 particularly, we had a pre-MozFest “Women and Web” session that was hosted by Amira Dhalla which for me was
I liked sitting in the smaller circles with session facilitators from different tracks hearing what they did in their professional lives and what they were looking to get out of MozFest. A great addition to the facilitation training.
Q: What was the festival like for you as a facilitator? Which experiences stand out for you?
A: MozFest is a validating experience. It’s where you go to know that what you’ve noticed or experienced is real because you will meet at least one other person that has gone through that very same thing. You will meet people asking the same questions as you and who will answer the questions whose answers you’ve never figured out.
I enjoy seeing what I personally refer to as “the MozFest spirit” where people are grabbing coffee and running across rooms to find sessions they really wanted to attend, people sitting on floors having such heartfelt conversations about remodelling the internet into a meaningful public and global resource.
I have been in two sessions that have intersected at tech and gender. The best part for me was meeting women from across the globe that were looking for solutions for their communities back home and who were able to get one step further by attending my session. I loved listening to women’s different experiences emanating from the same issues. It didn’t matter where we all were from, we all faced the same thing. And by coming together at MozFest it was easier for us all to discuss what was going on in our different contexts and then collaboratively find solutions that worked. Everyone went home feeling a little bit more resolved.
Q: What was your favorite part about being a festival facilitator?
A: Meeting people from across the globe that have a shared sense of care and understanding of community, as well as the unspoken commitment to use the internet to build stronger communities. That remains MozFest’s greatest strength and superpower; bringing people together.
I like the intimacy of sessions, that people felt free enough to come up to me after the sessions and say, “Hey! I really liked your session” or “This stood out for me…”
Q: How did you stay connected with your session participants and the internet health movement after MozFest?
A: Most of us connected via Twitter and email; I see their posts from time to time and occasionally receive their community newsletters with updates on what is going on their side of the world. It is heartwarming to see that the fire is still burning years later.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
A: If you possibly can, propose to attend at least one MozFest in your life, you won’t regret it!