“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.”
Disability doesn’t mean disadvantage. And Farida Bedwei, a celebrated software engineer from Ghana, is proof of that.
Born in 1979, Bedwei was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one — cerebral palsy is an incurable neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination but does not interfere with the ability to learn.
She lived a nomadic childhood thanks to her father’s role at the United Nations Development Programme. As a result, the family resided in Dominica, Grenada and the United Kingdom before finally settling in Ghana when Bedwei was nine years old.
She was home schooled until the age of 12, and then continued her education at a government school where she was able to socialize with other children. Her family noticed her passion for computers, so it was decided for Bedwei to skip senior high school and enroll in a one-year computer course at the St. Michael information technology center. At 15 years old, she was one of the youngest in the class. A challenge, perhaps? But one she took in her stride.
“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 says.
Following her graduation, the passionate programmer began looking for work and found her dream role at Soft, a premier 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.'”
Bedwei has steadfastly refused to let her disability affect her career trajectory. Today, as the co-founder and chief technical officer of software company Logiciel, she is considered one of the most powerful women in financial technology on the continent — in 2013, South Africa’s CEO Magazine named Bedwei the most influential woman in business and government in Africa for the financial sector.
The successful business woman is inspiring others through organisations like The Girls in ICT Committee — a group established to encourage more women to pursue IT careers.