For a young woman who has gone through numerous adversities, but has not allowed life’s challenges mangle her passion, there’s so much to learn from her attitude to life.
Farida Nana Efua Bedwei has proved that a disability is not enough to sniff out a person’s light, if he is determined to shine.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1979, Farida spent most of her childhood in Dominica, Grenada and the United Kingdom before her family moved to Ghana when she was nine years old.
She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was only ten days old – the disease is an incurable neurological disorder that could occur before or at birth, which affects body movement and muscle coordination.
Farida has fearlessly and determinedly ridden with the tide, defeated the odds and emerged victorious. Today, she is celebrated as one of the most powerful women in financial technology on the continent and the co-founder and chief technical officer of software company Logiciel.
As a result of her condition, the young Farida was home schooled by her mother until the age of 12, when she was allowed the opportunity to continue her education at a government school.
At age 15, she was enrolled in a one-year computer course at the St. Michael information technology center. There, she was one of the youngest in her class, but that was no restraint to her passion, instead she saw it as a challenge which she had all it took to meet.
“I’m sure most of my classmates were wondering what I was doing with them. And that it how I started my career as a software engineer because through that course I realized what aspect of IT I was going to specialize in. I loved the idea of solving problems and creating things,” she tells CNN.
Inspite of the teeming challenges, the desire to make impact and touch the lives of others has always prodded her on.
After her graduation, the power lady took up a job at Soft, a thriving software company in the region.
She recalls; “I went and saw the head of the technical division and I told him, I want a job here, I don’t have any experience, but I’m inspired to learn… If you give me the chance, I promise you that you’ll never regret it. So he said, ‘OK, fine… come and join.'”
Now, is there a better definition for courage?
After three years, Farida left Soft to become a senior software architect at Rancard Solutions.; a job she did for nine years. For the first three years, she studied for a diploma in e-technology as a part time student, even though she already had a diploma in Information Systems.
After her diploma, she went ahead to complete a one-year degree at the University of Hertfordshire in England, before returning home to continue working for Rancard in 2010. In the same year, she joined G-Life Financial Services.
She soon found that the company’s system was inefficient for micro-financing, and so she partnered with Derrick Dankyi, a colleague at the company, to start a cloud software platform called gKudi.
Today, their innovation is being used by 130 micro-finance companies nationwide. The institutions administer loans to their customers by sending a code to their mobile phones via SMS, which can be exchanged for money at any branch, making small loans available immediately.
“It’s helping the micro-financing industry in this country,” she says. “It’s helping them make valid decisions on what to do, it’s helping them cut out fraud and it’s helping them give loans to people who need loans.”
With her wealth of experience and interesting attitude to life, Farida Bedwei continues to inspire others through organizations like The Girls in ICT Committee — a group established to encourage more women to pursue IT careers.
She says in a CNN Interview; “I am a role model for a lot of children with disabilities so and it’s very important for me to showcase to the world that… Yes … You can have a disabled child and it’s not the end of the world. There is so much that that child can end up doing given the right resources.”
In 2011, she received the Legacy and Legacy Ideas Award and in 2013, she was named by South Africa’s CEO Magazine as the most influential woman in business and government in Africa for the financial sector. Farida is also the author of Definition of a Miracle, a novel that tells the story of a physically challenged child- her pains and struggles.
There’s no force, strong enough to stop a determined mind.